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Ian Rickson's new podcast delves into the actor's cultural passions


BWW Review: 'WHAT I LOVE' WITH BEN WHISHAW, PodcastWhat I Love is a brand new podcast series from Storyglass. Created and hosted by celebrated British theatre director Ian Rickson, interviews are conducted on the empty stages of some of Britain's most iconic theatres, shut down due to the pandemic. Here, he meets a variety of actors, performers and creatives to talk about their most-valued piece of writing, song and film to explore and highlight their meaning and what they reveal about people at a time when the arts are in such a precarious state.

Bafta and Golden Globe-winning actor Ben Whishaw's episode is gentle, meditative and thought-provoking. Having worked together several times, including on Jez Butterworth's Mojo at the Harold Pinter theatre in 2013, there is clearly an intimacy and easy rapport between the men. The conversation moves from wistful reflections about his teacher in his Hitchin youth theatre to his motivations and preoccupations in his current work.

His film pick will not be familiar to some: Love Streams, directed in 1984 by John Cassavetes, tells the story of Robert, played by Cassavetes. Robert and his sister Sarah, played by Cassavetes' wife Gena Rowlands, come together after being abandoned by their loved ones. Whishaw states that the film is often surreal, overly long and jerky, with strange sequences and an opera thrown in for good measure. However, he truly admires Cassavetes' freedom in his films. The pair explore the truth in acting in the film and how Cassavetes' films do not attempt to entertain, but the reality in them is addictive.

The whole podcast feels quietly warm and comfortable, whist being revealing some very personal revelations, such as Whishaw's need for protective environments when he performs. Rickson touches on the necessary extraction from emotional and physical connection we have all had to make in the current circumstances. Whishaw reveals he has not missed these connections until he revisited this film; he is reminded of why he does what he does.

Whishaw's second choice is a short story called Chaunt by Joy Williams, who he only discovered last year when he was in New York. The story follows a woman called Jane who has lost her young son Billy. He was knocked off his bike while visiting a chapel in a place called Chaunt. The chapel is filled animals that no one else can see and Jane spends the novel pondering the loss of her child and his experiences in Chaunt. In contrast to Cassavetes, the humans are not at the centre of the story; the natural world and its workings take priority.

The pair ruminate on the detail in the story and the precise choice of words. Whishaw also reads a passage from the story, which is a delightful treat; meditative and perfectly phrased.

"The Garden" by PJ Harvey is Whishaw's musical choice. He recalls his close friendship with Polly herself, referring to her as his other twin and reflecting on the great influence her music has had on him from a very young age. Two men meet in a garden and one of them drops to his knees; Whishaw refers to his appreciation that this is a reflection of queer culture; the male and female influences within her music, which has always spoken to him.

Rickson is a thoughtful host, and the format meanders beautifully between classic interviewing and contemplative conversation. Whishaw expresses his discomfort at the falseness which often occurs in interviews, but this is much more like eavesdropping on a conversation between friends. It is clear there is mutual love and admiration for Whishaw's choices between him and Rickson, which Whishaw freely admits are particular and may not appeal to everyone.

It is a timely reminder of the value and influence of the arts on everyone; these cultural choices are like a balm for a troubled mind.

The What I Love Podcast is available now with more new episodes to follow

Photo Credit: Helen Murray

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From This Author Aliya Al-Hassan