Podcast of the week: ‘Wooden Overcoats’ makes funerals funny
This has the distinct feel of a late 1970s BBC comedy production – no bad thing at all
Wooden Overcoats: refreshing, bright, and oddly absorbing experience
One pastoral village, two competing funeral parlours. There is drama on the horizon and I am extremely invested in it.
This podcast has a distinct feel of a late 1970s BBC comedy production, just without the visuals. The cadence of the dialogue is not unlike the slightly-less-manic moments of Fawlty Towers and invokes that very same vintage sitcom energy.
There’s something quite timeless about the production and writing of Wooden Overcoats that suggests the story could have been written at any point in modern history.
A narrator occasionally descends into the soundscape, but not in a patronising way to explain what we may have missed, but rather adding a layer of narrative and movement that gives the listening experience the feel of a full-blown-audiobook at times.
The performances – including many BBC and Channel 4 comedy and soap alumni – are effortless: it’s quite refreshing to listen to an independent production and be entirely confident in every actor’s contribution. The depth of each performance genuinely fills out the world in a way that is seldom heard in audio fiction.
In the pilot we meet Rudyard and Antigone Funn, funeral directors on a slightly disastrous business day in the village. They make a delightful double team. Their dialogue is sharp and fast. Audio-fiction does occasionally require a certain level of focus and concentration to keep the plot in hand, but there is nothing to struggle against here. Funn Funeral Directors is under threat by a new funeral operation in the village, run by the charming and delightful Eric Chapman (to whom Antigone can barely manage to speak a single sentence, so overwhelmed is she by his handsomeness). And so is set in motion a bitter, hilarious and extremely petty rivalry between the two businesses.
The narrator insists that we are witnessing the worst day of Rudyard’s life – her name is Madeline, and she is a mouse, a reveal that fits precisely into the moderately surreal backdrop of the world we are tuning into.
In terms of format and feel it isn’t unlike the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s 1978 radio turn, or the original audio run of The Mighty Boosh in 2001 – it has more in common with these BBC productions than with any fiction podcasts now running and that’s no bad thing.
This is a refreshing, bright and oddly absorbing experience.