Nicola Christie

The best theatre podcasts

Plus: a dense and extremely satisfying interrogation of books, old and new, courtesy of Graham Norton

Who could resist an hour with the most swoonable actor in the world? Image: Paul Harris / Getty Images

All the world’s on stage again so where to go to for insight into what to see and why?

Podcasts, of course.

Lowe’s ‘luck’ is that he happens to be friends, neighbours, or have starred, with everyone he interviews

Let’s start with Literally! With Rob Lowe. An hour-long conversation between the most swoonable actor in the world who we’ve all forgotten, and everyone he knows and likes, from Alec Baldwin and Oprah Winfrey to St Elmo’s Fire co-star Demi Moore. It’s a wonderful and eye-opening listen. Lowe combines the enthusiasm and curiosity of the best interviewers with a knowledge and experience that makes conversation flow until the cup spilleth over. The blue lighting of a show is ‘very Bar-Mitzvah limousine’, he and actor Jason Alexander agree; they can also, incredibly, dissect the stage performances of Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken, Angela Lansbury and John Malkovich, having between them seen all of them in the theatre. Lowe’s ‘luck’ is that he happens to be friends or neighbours or have starred with everyone he interviews: it allows for an intimacy that interviews rarely achieve.

It’s why UK equivalents of Literally! With Rob Lowe have been doing similar business at the box office: David Tennant’s hour-long exchanges with the likes of Judi Dench, Olivia Colman and Tim Minchin ran throughout the lockdowns, as did Sue Perkins’s An hour or so with… Ruby Wax, Emma Thompson, etc. In each case, the shows worked because a hugely charismatic and knowledgeable person — or practitioner — was interrogating a fellow thesp about their trade. No newsroom-trained presenter can match that (Radio 4, weirdly, still doesn’t get this, with Front Row, which sounds as if it’s in a bit of a time warp). Will these heart-to-hearts continue once A-list actors get their parts back? If the demand, and advertisers, are there, hopefully they will.

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