Graham Clark, Music Features Writer

Spike - Celebrating The Genius Of The Goon Show

When the Goon Show arrived on BBC radio in 1951 it was a breath of fresh air after all the variety shows that had gone before. Suddenly three young rebels had arrived on the scene to shake things up.

Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe introduced listeners to a crazy and often madcap world with sound effects and a satire that was unheard of.

Spike, the latest touring play from Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and co-writer Nick Newman shine a light on the comic genius of Spike Milligan.

This show made me want to rediscover those classic radio programmes, which I found on the BBC Sounds App, just search for The Goon Show.

Robert Wilfort portrayed Milligan with ease and all the mannerisms and quirkiness of the underrated comic, whilst Jeremy Lloyd played a believable Harry Secombe with Patrick Warner playing a smooth and suave Peter Sellers, though the feeling was that they were both supporting roles - which they were.

Margaret Cabourn-Smith as Janet the sound effects engineer, was a hoot - one minute she was replicating the sound of a man falling off a cliff - then coming up again, the next bringing the sound of soldiers walking through gravel to the stage.

As the years passed Milligan became stroppier as top management refused to recognise his comic genius - whilst the radio show became even more popular. His character was formed by his time in the army fighting against the top guard.

A theme that continued throughout his time in The Goons with the BBC. Whilst the play does not shy away from Milligan’s mental issues, the focus is on how funny he was and some of the classic sketches are replicated with the original jokes, he was only getting paid half of what Secombe and Sellers were receiving, despite Milligan writing the scripts allowing his comic genius to shine. The BBC top brass didn't recognise the respect Milligan had from his audiences.

The emphasis remains firmly on the struggles Milligan had, portrayed in a convincing way with the friction and conflict against management a theme that is always present.

As the play concluded the audience were reminded of the influence Milligan and The Goons had on later programmes such as Monty Python, The Goodies, The Young Ones amongst others.

Without doubt Spike is an engaging, funny, informative and invigorating insight into one of Britain’s outstanding comic talents.

I loved it.

Runs until Saturday 19th November