The Boy Who Kicked Pigs – Stage Play

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs
The Boy Who Kicked Pigs
The Boy Who Kicked Pigs – at Jacksons Lane, Highgate N, until 16th March 2013

It may be March, but its still dark by seven pm, and all alone I climb off the Northern (black) Line and walk down the hill to the glowing gothic building astride the crossroads. Inside there is a bustle and a hustle, and a surprisingly spritely audience all waiting to go into the theatre space for this evenings performance of The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, based on the book by Tom Baker; and dramatised by Kill The Beast, this evenings presenting company.

The play opens ‘in the pub’ and it’s quickly clear that the bizarre and macabre are going to play a central role – the overly generous, elderly, blind old man is quickly revealed to have (unknowingly) murdered a child, and then he is quickly despatched himself. After this opening ensemble, the play ‘flash backs’ and we start to meet the characters one by one; Robert, his sister, the local police; and then onto the local newspaper office, a particularly accurate portrayal of the rural newsroom – right down to the keen but bored work experience boy. From here the play proceeds at a rollocking pace, through mono and duologues, character and ensemble pieces, and ‘almost’ musical numbers. Costumes (Caligari is a particularly manic menace-a-like) and make up blend to enhance the grotesque, surreal and bloody nature (and oh yes, there is a fountain of blood and a *lot* of nasty, dirty, nature. But ‘spoilers’!). The story lifts and elevates whilst borrowing beautifully from the structures of classic horror and scifi. But with Tom Baker as the author, who would expect anything else?

In its ‘mix’ of genres The Boy Who Kicked Pigs perfectly suits the book and I suspect reflects the original vision of Baker. Using busy physical theatre and aspects of dance alongside the music, and as tools to create ‘crowds’ is frankly brilliant and works beautifully. The foley is particularly fine, and their sound designer and composer deserve long careers on the back of this play alone. As do all the Kill The Beast company. It helps that, young as they are, the company are scarily talented (all have other performance projects as well as day jobs) but for four individuals to successfully portray a villages worth of characters, (in the climatic disaster scene almost everyone in the story was there) is above and beyond mere ‘talent’. This is not, however some have chosen to portray them, amateur theatre. Kill the Beast – David Cumming, Natasha Hodgson, Clem Garritty, Oliver Jones and Zoe Roberts – are a fully fashioned, professional company. Follow them on twitter @kill_beast and watch out for them bringing this to your area, if you cannot get down here to see it.

A glorious romp through the dark, surreal side of human nature, with a cackle and a leer, and a salutary telling tale depicting just why one should never, ever, listen to your imaginary friends. Especially those with murderous intent.

Doctor Who: The Auntie Matter/The Sands of Life

Doctor Who: The Auntie Matter
Doctor Who: The Auntie Matter

Doctor Who: The Auntie Matter/The Sands of Life

Written by Jonathan Morris/Nicholas Briggs

Published by Big Finish

Two very different stories kick off the latest series of Fourth Doctor audio adventures, with Mary Tamm bringing Romana back to the side of Tom Baker’s Doctor, in recordings made just a few months before her sad passing last year.

In The Auntie Matter, the pair are hiding from the Black Guardian, disguised as a married couple in 1920’s London. When Romana runs into a charming bachelor in town, she soon finds herself in the clutches of the Aunt from Hell.

Jonathan Morris openly taps the rich vein of Wodehouse with this tale, as unsuitable girlfriends, knowing servants and conniving butlers revolve around the time travellers. Baker and Tamm clearly revel in their humorous interplay, as each tries to outwit the other, and they are supported by a strong supporting cast including Julia McKenzie.

Doctor Who: The Sands of LifeA shift of tone in the next release, which gives Mary Tamm in particular a chance to stretch her range within character. The Sands of Life finds K9 return to his Master and Mistress just in time to encounter the most lethal force known to robots – sand. The Tardis is knocked off course by a swarm of spacefaring creatures, and lands in the Sahara to find out why. Also out to hunt down the space whales is David Warner’s Cuthbert, an intergalactic entrepreneur with a hotline to Earth’s President.

This story is written by Nicholas Briggs, from an idea by Tom Baker, and serves up a rich table of aural delights in the dialogue and SurroundSound effects. Special mention should be made of Toby Hadoke, fulfilling a lifelong dream to act alongside Tom Baker as Cuthbert’s mysterious assistant, Mr Dorrick. The ecological theme is well woven into a strong story, without becoming overly preachy.

At 72 minutes long, Sands is a three (short) parter, and still ends on a cliffhanger that won’t be resolved until next month’s release. Yes, we have a Moffat style story arc here, but in the company of Tamm and Baker, it will be an enjoyable few months to the great reveal at the end.

Doctor Who: Destiny of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Destiny of the Daleks

Narrated by Lalla Ward

Published by AudioGo

Odd releases, these TV soundtracks with linking narration. With a story like Destiny widely available on DVD, you wonder who wants to own the soundtrack only with linking narration? Visually impaired fans of the Doctor perhaps, but that would seem a limited market to warrant the steady stream of releases.

This tale from 1979 was the first of season 17, and saw Lalla Ward step into a newly regenerated Romana’s shoes opposite the Fourth Doctor. It also marked Terry Nation’s final Dalek teleplay, after alleged extensive rewrites were imposed by script editor Douglas Adams.

As such, this audio carries some historical value, and the voice of Tom Baker as the Doctor will never tire, while Lalla Ward’s narration presents some interesting counterpoints with her youthful performance of 33 years ago. But sadly the sound quality has not been remastered, and the volume of dialogue is often variable between scenes, and occasionally within a scene.

Whether by Nation’s or Adams’ hand, this runaround on Skaro is not one of the best, and as such will probably only appeal to completists who already have the VHS, DVD and Target novelisation of the tale. File under curio.

Doctor Who: The Oseidon Adventure

Doctor Who: The Oseidon Adventure
Written by Alan Barnes

Published by Big Finish

The concluding audio drama in Big Finish’s first season of Fourth Doctor adventures follows on directly from last month’s mad, and madly enjoyable, Trail of the White Worm. Sadly, for all its build up, this release collapses under its convoluted plot.

With the Master’s wormhole beckoning the Kraal back to Earth (after their first failed visit in the TV adventure The Android Invasion), the Fourth Doctor and Leela must foil the aliens’ plan to lay waste to Earth. However, this plan is just a cover for an even more devastating plot devised by the Master himself.

Yes, this is an audio drama that twists and turns its way through sixty minutes, aided and abetted by the Kraals’ capacity to produce android simulations of real people. The listener is constantly playing catch up as android double after android double is revealed, as if a Russian Doll has been placed in an infinity loop. The result is confusing and, after a while, quite farcical. Tom Baker seems keen to milk the humour in this situation, but that only weakens any drama and tension in the piece.

There are still moments to savour here. Leela’s newfound talent as a horse whisperer is a delight, and gives rise to a few moments of real excitement and a clever little reveal at the very end of the tale. And the return of UNIT, complete with references to the Brigadier and the Doctor’s London lab, will certainly please the fans. However, after the earlier triumphs of this series, such as The Renaissance Man and The Wrath of the Iceni, it is a shame to conclude with what is effectively an audio pantomime.

Big Finish have promised a darker edge to the next run of Fourth Doctor and Leela tales, due for release in 2014, and one hopes they come good on that promise. This pairing could run as long as the rude health of the main performers continues, but not if the characters are wasted on stories like this one.

Doctor Who: Trail of the White Worm

Doctor Who: Trail of the White Worm

Written by Alan Barnes

Published by Big Finish

In this penultimate adventure in the Fourth Doctor and Leela audio drama series, our erstwhile travellers arrive in Derbyshire circa 1979. Amid the rise of Punk, Thatcherism and not a few cow pats, they become involved in the hunt for a missing girl and the strange inhabitants of a village living in fear of the great ?you know what?.

Mad as a bag of frogs ? or perhaps mad as a man with a big blue box ? would be one way to describe this audio. The spirits of The Wicker Man, An American Werewolf in London and the later films of Ken Russell all imbue the story and atmosphere, and seem to infect every character, from Rachael Stirling?s Mrs Demesne Furze and the mystery of what she keeps in the trunk of her car, to Michael Cochrane?s Colonel Hugh Spindleton, with his Chieftain tank and team of mercenaries. That this concoction not only makes sense, but is thoroughly entertaining with it, is a credit to writer Barnes and director Ken Bentley.

It?s no spoiler to say that this story sees the return of Geoffrey Beevers as the Master, but the nature of his return, and his relationship with the above guest characters, certainly kept this listener glued until the end, or rather, until the cliff-hanger, as this tale leads directly into next month?s final release The Oseidon Adventure.

As ever, Tom Baker makes the most of the humour in his part, though Louise Jameson is given her own lighter moments this time around, not least in Leela?s Mexican standoff with the aforementioned Chieftain.? Meanwhile Beevers gives the Master plenty of underlying menace, even if his voice does sound strangely similar to Derek Jacobi?s Professor Yana. The lack of a satisfying conclusion may frustrate some, but with that cliff-hanger due to be resolved in a month?s time, it won?t present as painful a wait as Let?s Kill Hitler did.

Doctor Who: Wrath of the Iceni

Doctor Who Wrath Of the Iceni
Doctor Who Wrath Of the Iceni Click Image to Buy CD
Wrath of the Iceni

Written by John Dorney

Released by Big Finish

The historical adventures of Doctor Who’s classic TV series always had a bad reputation. Commissioned to educate the younger viewers, they soon lost out to tales of Daleks, Yeti and the like and a number have been lost to time.

What a shame that a writer of John Dorney’s calibre wasn’t around then, as with this tale of the Fourth Doctor and Leela in the midst of Boudica’s war against the Romans, he has fashioned Who’s greatest historical tale ever.

A grand claim perhaps, but listen to the evidence. We have Leela learning that valour without honour is simple barbarism. We have the Doctor realising how much he needs his ‘savage’. We have real insight into the complexities of the Roman invasion of Britain. And we have humour, suspense and sword battles galore.

As ever with Big Finish’s productions, the sound design is superb, and the mind’s eye has no difficulty conjuring up the images to go with the spectacular audio. And the performances are uniformly superb, from Ella Kennion as Boudica and Nia Roberts as a conflicted Iceni named Bragnar, to Tom Baker and Louise Jameson exploring depths to their characters and relationship that were never even hinted at on TV.

This ongoing Fourth Doctor and Leela series has, at its core, the Doctor’s education of his companion. Wrath of the Iceni shows that the relationship of master and student is truly in the balance. Next month, the Daleks return, but I hope another pure historical adventure might be on offer later.

The LOST Doctor Who Story Told

Doctor Who: Shada by Douglas Adams and Gareth Roberts

Thirty-three years ago, the BBC started filming Douglas Adams? six-part Doctor Who serial, Shada. But industrial action halted recording, and the story was left unfinished? until now. This March, AudioGO are thrilled to be releasing an unabridged reading of this long-lost adventure ? at the same time as the BBC Books hardback. Written by acclaimed Doctor Who novelist and screenwriter Gareth Roberts, it is based on Douglas Adams? original scripts and read by Lalla Ward (who played the Doctor?s companion Romana). John Leeson, the original K9, returns as the voice of the Doctor?s faithful robot dog. The reading is enhanced with music and sound design.

The Doctor?s old friend and fellow Time Lord Professor Chronotis has retired to Cambridge University ? where nobody will notice if he lives for centuries. But now he needs help from the Doctor, Romana and K-9. When he left Gallifrey he took with him a few little souvenirs ? most of them are harmless. But one of them is extremely dangerous.

The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey isn?t a book for Time Tots. It is one of the Artefacts,
dating from the dark days of Rassilon. It must not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.
The sinister Skagra most definitely has the wrong hands. He wants the book. He wants to discover the truth behind Shada. And he wants the Doctor?s mind…

Published: 15th March 2012
Author: AudioGO
Reader: Lalla Ward

No. of CDs: 10
Playing time: 11 hrs 30 mins

CD RRP: ?19.35
CD ISBN: 978144586732

Download RRP: ?19.69
Download ISBN: 9781445867656

It couldn’t be easier to order an audiobook. Just go to the AudioGO website www.audiogo.co.uk to see our wide selection of Doctor Who titles. If you’d like to see more, simply select a genre and browse the thousands of titles on-site, available to order at the click of a mouse – or by calling us on 0800 136919.

Gareth Roberts Signing Dr Who Shada

GARETH ROBERTS will be signing the Doctor Who novel, SHADA (BBC books) at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore on Wednesday 14th March from 6 ? 7pm.

Based on the scripts for the original television series by the legendary Douglas Adams, SHADA retells a Tom Baker era adventure of the Doctor that never made it to the screen in 1979, due to industrial action.

The Doctor’s old friend and fellow Time Lord Professor Chronotis has retired to Cambridge University – where nobody will notice if he lives for centuries. But now he needs help from the Doctor, Romana and K-9. When he left Gallifrey he took with him a few little souvenirs – most of them are harmless. But one of them is extremely dangerous.

Gareth Roberts has written a huge number of Doctor Who spin off titles and has also written scripts for the TV Series and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Classic Tom Baker Story, new on Audio

Doctor Who: The Stones of Blood

In May 2011 AudioGO (formerly BBC Audiobooks) release a brand new audio novelisation of a 1978 Doctor Who TV adventure. Written specially for AudioGO by the serial’s original author, David Fisher, The Stones of Blood stars the Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker) with companions Romana and K9. The audiobook features specially-composed music and sound design, and is read by Susan Engel, who played Vivien Fay in the 1978 story, with John Leeson as the voice of K9.

When the Doctor, Romana and K9 arrive on Bodcombe Moor in 20th Century Dorset, they find themselves confronted by a huge, ancient stone circle. On meeting the elderly Professor Rumford and her friend Vivien Fay, they learn the chequered history of the stones, and of the inhabitants of the nearby manor house ? currently one Leonard de Vries, leader of a druidic sect. But all is not as it seems, and soon the Doctor and his companions are enmeshed in a deadly web of deceit. Powerful creatures rampage across the moor, and the nature of a long family line is called into question. Romana is trapped by a cunning enemy, and time is running out for the Doctor and K9…

Format: Download or 4 CDs
Duration: 4 hours 30 mins

Release Date: 5 May 2011
Available from www.audiogo.co.uk and all good audio retailers

Doctor Who Radio Star

9 CDs of Doctor Who BBC Radio Gold

Bigfinish wasn’t the first audio company to produce professional Doctor Who Audio Dramas. The BBC got there first expanding the on screen adventures on its radio platforms. The Doctor? has also had a long career as a radio star – and, come April 2011, AudioGO will celebrate his escapades on the airwaves with the release of Doctor Who: The BBC Radio Episodes. It contains all four of the Doctor’s full-cast BBC radio dramas, plus the 1976 made-for-LP audio adventure Doctor Who and the Pescatons and the 1994 spoof documentary Whatever Happened to… Susan? Here’s the radio run-down:

The Paradise of Death (1993)

When a horrific death occurs at Space World theme park, the Brigadier (the late great Nicholas Courtney) and UNIT are called in – accompanied by the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen).

The Ghosts of N-Space (1996)

The Brigadier’s great-uncle Mario seems unsurprised by the spectres that haunt his ancient Sicilian castle. But when the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith come to investigate, they finds themselves in great danger…

Doctor Who and the Pescatons (1976)

The TARDIS’s arrival on a lonely beach at night marks the beginning of a terrifying adventure on present-day Earth for the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Sarah Jane.

Exploration Earth (1976)

The Fourth Doctor takes Sarah Jane back in time to witness the Earth’s development: only to find that the existence of Mankind itself is in danger!

Whatever Happened To… Susan? (1994)

A tongue-in-cheek look at how Susan’s life might have turned out after her adventures with the Doctor. Featuring Jane Asher as Susan.

Slipback (1985)

The TARDIS materialises in the service ducting of the Vipod Mor, a huge craft floating in deep space. The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) find something nasty lurking there, and the past and future history of the entire Universe is at risk…

Format: 9 CDs
Duration: 9 hours 10 mins approx
CD SRP: ?60.00
CD ISBN: 9781408467565 Release Date: 07 April 2011

Available from www.audiogo.co.uk and all good audio retailers