You can listen to CattleGrid! here
'CattleGrid!', written by 17-year-old Jonny Hibbs is an audio comedy drama about a young guy from Dartmoor struggling to break into the dating scene. At the behest of a friend, he tries out a new dating app named CattleGrid, which speaks to him through a rather defamatory AI voice.
It's quite funny, at times, with some unusually-paced but still amusing humour. The jokes mostly come from the harassed sounding main character, who has to deal with being mocked by his friends, the CattleGrid! app, and a particularly peculiar neighbour. They aren't exactly complex, but they're enough to make you smile.
Outside of the jokes though, the dialogue could have used a bit more polish. Lines in each conversation don't flow all that well, and lack a cohesion of content — there were a couple of times when a character would mention something only vaguely related to what they were talking about, just to try and work another joke in. Because of the audio format, certain lines were added to tell the audience what's happening. Some of them were quite subtle, and helped get a visual across without derailing the conversation, but others were unfortunately jarring. This issue was exacerbated by the voice acting, which felt stilted most of the way through. It's hard to tell which issue caused the other; did the actors struggle to elevate the unpolished dialogue, or would the dialogue have been more energetic if the cast had put more into it? Classic chicken and the egg scenario. Perhaps if the writer had leaned more into their concept and built the drama around that the dialogue would have worked better.
The idea of a rural-based dating app is quite a novel one, and would most likely be welcomed by young people living in the countryside, but unfortunately it doesn't see a lot of exploration in the audio drama's ten-minute run time. This is a shame because this had a lot of potential — particularly given that it exists in a setting we as an audience are not often shown. Rural areas are often associated with farmers and middle-aged people, dealing with young people's issues in a countryside context would have been interesting. There are limited jokes about rural stereotypes, like one of the traits the app matches its users with being what type of cattle their family breeds, but these were few in number. As it stands, after the initial establishing conversation between the main character and his friend, the app falls to the background, and an entirely unexpected plot takes over.
At this point the drama took a turn for the absurd, which isn't necessarily a negative thing, absurdist drama can be very effective, but 'CattleGrid!' didn't lean into it enough to tap into the electric energy that the best absurd pieces have in spades. Instead it was quirky at best.
It felt as if 'CattleGrid!' was trying to build towards a farce, and all the right ingredients were there, but there just wasn't an effective enough push to drive this home. A bit more clarity of vision, and more work on the dialogue would raise this audio drama up greatly, but for now, it's a bit of a milquetoast misadventure.