Writer and Composer: Martin Green
Director: Wils Wilson
Folk music, infamous raves, and electronic experimentation – it’s a perplexingly glorious history of music this nation celebrates, and there’s an even more diverse cauldron of waves and motions to be found in Martin Green’s cacophony of storytelling series The Portal – a podcast audio drama delving into a forty-year-old story of love, obsession and sound. Angela and Etteridge, different in manner, unite in their efforts to document the nightlife of London. From the music halls of the war to the M25 raves, this is far from a dramatic romance. With splatters of comedy, rich character performances and an ever-developing score from Green, The Portal shifts in dynamic as effortlessly as the sounds it pays tribute to.
With the introduction of the fiery Angela, the first episode shifts in structure – what felt like a Radio Four tribute and jaunt across the nation’s diverse musical history unlocks a personal journey of two lovers, torn apart and destined never to meet. Through their recording, however, spanning decades, the pair left messages in their tapes documenting the nightlife of London. A romantic story, perhaps, but gradually darkness spreads across the tale as we realise this adoration of music belays something else.
Largely fictional, musician and creator Martin Green ties his childhood into the imagery and allegory present across The Portal. From his experiences with the 5 am Morris Dancers to the seedier evenings of rave parties, there’s a personal touch to the series which one can’t help but become engrossed within. Unsurprisingly, much of the accounts are shared, not chiefly through word, but in Green’s composition with sound design from Eloise Whitmore where the music rallies itself with the tone shifts in a manner only a musician can achieve.
Auditory storytelling at its most seamless, The Portal’s initial episodes duck and weave their way across time, location, and memory with an uncomplicated sense of transition, mainly enabled through the exquisite score that tells a spanning tale outside of the narrative. Green’s ability with the spoken word, in construction, is unquestionable – the metaphorical nature of much of the composite is essential, and there’s little difficulty in following the unwinding story, save for the occasional audio inconsistency where the score masks Green’s performance in volume.
Green’s self-deprecation in recounting these events and discoveries offers a line between listener and artist as if the two are discovering this for the first time. Wils Wilson’s direction maintains the pacing, ensuring potential plot elements receive the necessary highlight required to piece together aspects between the invented and parts of Green’s personal story, which makes for a remarkably easy-to-follow podcast, even with the more creative elements.
The performances throughout are crystal in their characterisation, even for the beginning episodes. Exposition takes a backseat, and character’s aren’t spouting anything which doesn’t feel at least in some part related to their roles. David Greig’s dramaturgy capitalises on the cast of Dylan Read’s Etteridge and especially with Anna Russell Martin and Alison Peebles shared role as Angela.
With the beginnings of the story unfolding, intrigue grows in a surreptitiously fascinating concept which promises more to the tale as the episodes unfold. With only the starting moments of half of the grand narrative at the hands of Angela, much is to be discovered by those looking to support The Portal, both through listening to further episodes from podcast providers and those keen on the astoundingly atmospheric score can purchase The Portal album, a composite of the music produced for the series – with profits going to ensuring the podcast can remain free.
Available from most platforms