Review: Test Batch Special

Hector Cox 25 November 2018


Straight off the back of an already-sealed England series win in Sri Lanka, Cambridge enjoyed its own cricketing spectacle in the Corpus Playroom. The idea of turning the BBC’s beloved sporting show: Test Match Special, into a part improvised comedy was a novel and interesting idea from director and writer Will Turner, yet, in this case, one that left the audience wanting more from the evening.

Test Batch Special covered the interactions inside of the BBC Sport radio commentary box, watching over England play New Zealand in the “Lashes’ amidst the possibility of the radio show ending for good. Any avid cricket fan will recognise the characters in the box, with the posh ‘old-boy’ commentator Beaver Bassenthwaite (Emil Sands), joined by ex-England player Suzie Redmonds (Katie Mountford) and of course the comical figure of the Statistician (Tom Mayer). The part-improvised nature of the show enabled it to take many different and peculiar directions, while attempting to focus on the plot line of finding the culprit to the topical ball tampering scandal in order to save the show.

The amusing interactions between Beaver, Suzie and Statistician, all very much true to the characters they represented, enabled them to play off each other to excellent effect. The entrance of a fourth character (Calum Macleod), kick-started the improvisation (for which credit must go to the Improvisation director, Sara Hazemi) by filling in the roles of ball tampering suspects; from cricket playing astronaut to Phillip May, and his sharp humorous responses lightened up the show.

At times, it seemed the show lacked direction and structure, with the sudden entrance of characters and interjecting anecdotes; there were occasional moments of quietness, when it seems there just weren’t links to what happened next, and there was a slight lack of energy in improvisation. It felt like a bigger crowd might have stirred up the improvisation, but as it was they had to rely heavily upon Emil Sands’ vitality to carry the show.

It was however, despite the slight wackiness, a charming evening of sporting amusement and it seemed many of the cricketing following crowd could relate to what they were seeing.