The Truth on This American Life podcast, 13 April 2012
This unsettling little playlet had a young man (Ed Herbstman) arranging
a date with a young woman (Tammy Sager). The two of them talk on their cellphones before meeting, and the young woman decides
- rather inexplicably - not to meet. The young man happens to record their conversation, and subsequently plays with it on
his computer. He listens to the girl's responses, and puts in new statements to make a completely new conversation.
A little later on the two talk once more on the phone: the young man tells the girl
what she has done, and quite naturally she thinks of him as rather "creepy." She also reveals why she broke off their original
date, as she had met another man the day before. Once again the young man records the conversation, and although the
two of them will not speak any more, he still decides to restructure it, putting in new responses to the young girl's words.
At one level Tape Delay reminded me of Michael Powell's classic chiller
Peeping Tom, with a protagonist recording his exchanges with young women for the purposes of self-gratification.
In Powell's film the protagonist used a cine-camera, as opposed to recording software in Mitchell's play. In both texts,
however, the focus of attention centred on the distance between "reality" and the "ideal" as the protagonists reflected on
what they would like to have said, but did not manage to do so.
At another level Tape Delay showed how technology could be manipulated to
reinforce the male ego; by recording conversations, the protagonist imagined himself in a position of power that he could
never acquire in person-to-person exchanges. The effect was extremely unsettling, as we understood the consequences of what
he had done; he not only reinvented a new role for himself, but recast the girl as a submissive person (which she clearly
Although only fifteen minutes long, Tape Delay was a disturbing, unsettling
piece, making full use of the potential of sound recording. The director was Jonathan Mitchell.