It was one of those times that reminds you of how far Cape Town has moved since the late 1980s: a wonderful production of Radio Cinema down in the basement at The Book Lounge, presented by Sirius Tales. The lights were dimmed, frontman Rasmus Nielsen Bitsch introduced the theme – a tribute to lost love – and we were away, into the first of four stories.This was part of Lea Thau’s podcast Strangers, in which the musician Moby talks about being catfished most seductively – and effectively – by a stalker. He lands up feeling the loss of something – someone – that never actually was.
The second story was Leonard and Marianne, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2008. Yes, the story of that song, about the relationship and separation of Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen. What can you really say about this beautiful, transporting piece of radio, in which Marianne’s sweet and rich voice talking and singing is juxtaposed and superimposed on Cohen’s own voice. Perfection. A must-listen.
At intermission the audience wandered around browsing among the books, fueled by wine and snacks and the feeling of having entered some rarefied realm of truth. Ah, radio, such is your power. I felt nostalgia for those evenings sitting around the kitchen table after supper, immersed in audio good and bad – Squad Cars or The Men from the Ministry – or those intelligent quiz shows that bore no resemblance to the asinine and over-staged goings on found on current television.
Two more stories completed the evening. Here I am and Here Be Danger, described as a “non-narrated experiment in heartbreak”, used a foghorn motif to thread together a range of voices telling tales in snippets of their love woes. Last was Finding Emily from Radiolab, recommended by Rasmus as probably the best science podcast around. Many a tissue was retrieved from bag or pocket and put to good use as Emily’s sad, but ultimately redemptive story played out.
And then out into the glimmering Cape Town evening, buoyed and inspired. Radio in this age of podcasts is alive and well and has a lot to say. Thank you, Rasmus and Sirius, and prostrations to that most magnificent of book stores, The Book Lounge. Cape Town feels like an exciting place to be right now.