Why you should care
Because old-school British comedy is still damned funny.
It’s 1959 and Eglantine Whitechapel has just graduated top of her class from Britain’s secret service academy. She’s ready to fight the communists (and the new girlfriend of her old flame and fellow agent Vic Finnegan), but it turns out there are more urgent matters: Her mentor has been abducted, and she has to find him … and his missing occult tome, the Necronomicon.
So begins a madcap adventure of the delightfully aloof, domineering and slightly delusional Whitechapel, the protagonist of the kitschy, campy and completely underrated comedic podcast named for her. Eglantine Whitechapel: Supernatural Detective is the creation of award-winning British group Kill The Beast, active since 2012 and critically acclaimed for their on-stage mix of comedy and horror.
“We all love [Whitechapel] because she’s such an idiot … but she has the confidence of the cleverest person in the world,” explains troupe member Natasha Hodgson, who voices the simpering Whitechapel nemesis Scarlett Schwartz. In some ways, Whitechapel has kin in the many female detectives who’ve popped up on TV and movie screens in recent years — Olivia Colman’s Ellie Miller in Broadchurch, for example, or Sofia Helin’s portrayal of Saga Noren in The Bridge, both strong and capable crime fighters refusing to be held back by gender prejudice. But she’s also a descendant of madcap spoof characters like The Naked Gun’s Frank Drebin or Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath of the OSS 117 franchise … if those guys had fought vampires.
Kill the Beast had been strictly a stage company before releasing the first episode of Eglantine in October — but it wasn’t the character’s first appearance. In their 2014 production He Had Hairy Hands, she was called to investigate the case of a werewolf attacking the sleepy little town of Hemlock-Under-Lye — a kind of Scooby-Doo-esqe murder mystery. “We did that show and really loved it,” says Hodgson. “We’ve always come back to Eglantine and have often joked about her origin story.” The podcast is a stab at that — but one that doesn’t require all the resources of mounting a full-on stage production.
For a podcast, all you need is a microphone, garage band … and somebody with a sense of humor to write it. “We wanted to pack as many laughs in as possible,” said Hodgson — and indeed, some listeners may feel that the jokes come too fast to keep up.
Though the first series is only six episodes, it ends with a cliffhanger. But … will Finnegan and Whitechapel ever get it together? What about the Necronomicon? Hodgson says more harebrained adventures are in the pipeline. But, let’s be honest, some things will always remain mysterious.
Watch the podcast recording in action in this outtakes clip: