To devotees of Test Match Special, the voice of Henry Blofeld – deep, resonant, quite improbably plummy – is iconic. The inexpressible warmth of his clarion cry – ‘my dear old thing!’ – or the excited first sighting of a number 139 bus on the St John’s Wood Road provoke memories of summers past and winter tours spent clutching an old transistor to the ear.
So to see the famous voice embodied, in mustard cords and loafers reclining in an old armchair, is at once thrilling and rather startling. Accompanied by Peter Baxter - the taciturn presence at the back of the box during his thirty-four years as producer - this two-man show is an affectionate look back at four decades of Test Match Special, via anecdotes of Noël Coward, eerily accurate impressions of the great and good of TMS, and the story of a female companion who was 'exactly bouncy enough for what we had in mind' (a 46-day drive to northern India in a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, as it happens).
One might easily find plenty to quibble about in this meandering show. There’s no discernible structure: Blowers and Backers swing merrily from era to era with nothing so vulgarly restrictive as an order. For the likely audience, many of the anecdotes are well-rehearsed to the point of being old hat: who amongst us hadn’t heard the Leg Over story at least 45 times before?
However, these objections would seem rather to miss the point: Blofeld & Baxter is a highly enjoyable hour. The rapport between them, born of nearly forty years in the confines of the commentary box, is immediately apparent and soon welcomes the audience into its embrace. The hour zips by, seeming like nothing so much as a well-liquored evening couched in the winged armchairs of Blofeld’s beloved Boodle’s. This is perhaps not the place to encounter Blofeld’s majesty for the first time, but a must for all disciples of the game.