Join Radio 4 randomly at any time of the day and you can tell - often in less than half a second or so - whether you're listening to scripted or natural talk. Funny to think that even with the evident skill of the Beeb's voice-actors and the experience of their script-writing teams, listeners can nevertheless tell instinctively whether talk is real.
Why is that I wonder? I guess there could be some sub-auditory response to tape quality? More likely its non-fluency features; the umms and ahs of natural speech. Perhaps intonation plays a part - we do seem to have a surfeit of voice-actors who, however they try, sound plummily as if they're, you know, acting.
Anyway. The natural rhythm and tone of informal human speech is one of the great strengths of Radio Rental, a podcast which collects together real people telling real stories. The tales are macabre, eerie, often frightening, but the voices? Man, those voices are real people - hesitant, uncertain, scared - clearly still trying to make sense of what happened to them. The stories work particularly well in contrast to the (pretty silly) scripted conceit of the show; that a VHS rental store-owner is sharing them with us via video tape. You've got to admire their commitment to this device: the website is a pitch-perfect recreation of a local rental store from 1986.
I'm hoping you'll give it a go... and what's more, that you'll start with a stone-cold classic: Laura of the Woods. Hop to episode 4. Fast forward to 16:00. Then settle back and feel the chills.
This isn't acting, folks. This is for real.