❉ Sami Kelsh visits Baker’s End, where Tom Baker plays… Tom Baker!
I started listening to Baker’s End having pretty much no idea what to expect, apart from who’s in it (Tom Baker) and who’s written it (Paul Magrs) and given that they’re both people I’ve come to expect the curious, the irreverent, and the delightfully peculiar from, “The King Of Cats” is everything you’d expect from this dream production team, and giggle-inducingly joyous listening.
Some actors have gathered to bid farewell to Tom Baker, who’s apparently gone back to his home planet, having been menaced for some time by apparent doppelgängers. His former co-star Suzy (the iridescently brilliant Katy Manning) finds herself attempting to unravel the truth as to exactly what happened to her old friend (was it a TV license detector van? Did he take a tumble from a significant height whilst inexplicably in the altogether?) but if she expected things in a place called Happenstance to be anything less than quirky…
Indeed, Suzy finds herself stranded in Happenstance in the midst of bad weather, which – if the ominous tone that accompanies this news is anything to go by – promises to be no less than a harrowing experience for her. In the company of Tom’s old housekeeper, Mrs. Frimbly (Susan Jameson, in a performance that manages to be simultaneously dotty and creepy), Suzy is forced to endure the holiday season in the kind of mysterious small English village that is precisely what, as an inexperienced city-raised immigrant, makes me utterly terrified of quirky small English villages.
(I’ve seen Midsomer Murders. I’ve seen The Daemons. I know I wouldn’t make it out alive.)
And indeed, manic festivities ensue, with twerking ladies and raucous music, AND THEN THERE’S TOM BAKER. Tom Baker, who’s apparently not dead at all, but a giant, regal cat. (Or at least, an older gentleman in a rather pantomimetic cat costume.) Poor Suzy finds herself celebrating Christmas Eve alongside Tom and the local vicar, battling old ladies with laser boobies, as you do, and fighting off creepy creatures by doing a dance, as you do some more.
Top wordsmithery on the part of the lovely Mister Magrs, here, beautifully realised by the cast and crew, with just enough meta – and was that a sly nod to Classic Doctoroo there at the end? Oh yes it was! Highly recommended listening, if you like the clever, the silly, and the downright delightfully batty.
Baker’s End: Tom Baker And Team Tell All!!
Tom Baker: “It’s so strange and funny and brisk, so brisk. I laughed a lot. Do I deserve all this? In the twilight I’m still looking for fun and the company of jolly companions. Katy Manning is always dynamite, and Susan Jameson is of course wonderful. I’m looking forward to it all.”
Writer Paul Magrs: “I was in email conversation with Mr Tom Baker (he sends hilarious emails) and we were coming up with some outrageous ideas for stories… all these funny little messages sent between us quickly bore fruit and I ended up writing episode one of a rather macabre and comic series called ‘Baker’s End’ in which Tom Baker plays Tom Baker and all kinds of hilarity and oddness ensues. It involves a parade of curious characters played by some of my favourite actors… and a large, dancing cat.”
Katy Manning: “O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! A master class being in a studio with the brilliance of Baker, doing a script that could only come from the joyously clever and whacky imagination of Magrs (whose extraordinary scripts and characters I have been lucky enough to voice over 15 years), surrounded by a superb cast and in the safe hands of director/producer Simon Barnard! I am a very lucky Manning!”
Susan Jameson: “It’s great to be back in the mad and wonderful world of Paul Magrs. Can’t wait to play Mrs Frimbly as she marches her way through all kinds of madness!”
❉ Baker’s End is produced by Bafflegab Productions, producers of audio series The Scarifyers (as heard on BBC Radio 4 Extra), Hammer Films audio anthology Hammer Chillers, and The Brenda and Effie Mysteries, starring Anne Reid (winner of the Gold New York Radio Award for Best Audiobook 2015)
The first in the series, ‘The King of Cats,’ was released on CD and download on September 2nd 2016, and is available from www.bafflegab.co.uk or Amazon. Further episodes will be released every two months.