Veteran podcaster Helen Zaltzman of Answer Me This fame brings her linguistic podcast The Allusionist to the stage for the second time with her show No Title. Using the experience of her difficulty in changing her bank card title from “Miss” to “Ms” as a starting point, Zaltzman explores the linguistic quirks of titles and gender, in a light-hearted linguistic lecture.
Although primarily an audio performer, Zaltzman has adapted the show to the stage with flair. This has included eye-catching animations, an 80’s text adventure-style game, and a gold-sequinned dress – all of which are used to teach linguistic lessons.
In this endeavour, she is assisted by her “houseband” (i.e. husband) Martin Austwick (Answer Me This, Song By Song Podcast). The Zaltzman-Austwick double act have a playful and relaxed stage presence, developed over the decade they’ve spent making the Answer Me This podcast together. As in that podcast, Austwick’s ad libbed contributions help keep the show fresh, although they are not always successful in a live setting. He also provides the show’s musical accompaniment with finesse.
Despite Austwick’s flair and finesse, Zaltzman is the star of the show, gaining a round of applause from the crowd as soon as she walked onto the stage. It was a deserved premature applause, as over the course of the hour she took the audience on a heavily researched deep-dive into the world of titles, and how they create and reinforce certain gender roles. Although academically weighty, Zaltzman’s wit and humour keep things light and breezy, and, as with any episode of The Allusionist podcast, you’ll leave having learned something. But even if you’ve never heard the podcast (as was the case for a few in the audience), it’s perfectly accessible – not something a lot of academia can claim.
All on all, it makes for a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The current tour comes to Perth on 3 July and Darwin on 9 July. And even if you’re not in those two cities, there’s always The Allusionist podcast itself, available on your podcast app of choice.
The Allusionist is a podcast, and the upcoming shows are on Perth July 3th and Darwin July 9th.