February 2018: The BFI and Spike's 100th"Spike Milligan's Puckoon--Live on Stage" !
Our good friend at the BFI, Dick Fiddy, has announced that they are planning a Spike Milligan Day on Monday 7th May (the bank holiday) to celebrate this 100th year of Mr Spike Milligan. It will feature "many TV oddities and rarities as well as a showing of 'Postman's Knock' and 'The Great McGonagall', both of which starred the Milligan. Will file more info as we can in the coming weeks.
February 2018: Tbe BBC have many plans up their sleeves for the 100th Celebration in April, including;
A centenary collection of the best BBC Radio programmes about the legendary Spike Milligan - including brand new documentary Spike Milligan: Inside Out. Named for Spike's explanation of his sense of humour - 'I'm Irish - we think sideways' - this BBC radio anthology, published to celebrate the centenary of his birth, provides unique insight into his genius. Spike Milligan: Inside Out sees Milligan admirer Michael Palin and Spike's daughter, Jane, chat through some of Spike's many audio recordings. Also included in this compilation is a wealth of archive material, much of it from 2012's The Spike Show: Milligan Remembered, presented by Spike's agent and friend Norma Farnes.
In Milligan Chota Sahib, Spike recalls the excitement of his early life in India. Denis Norden pays tribute to his friend in Vivat Milligna: A Twenty-One Goon Salute, while In the Psychiatrist's Chair: Spike Milligan finds Spike telling Professor Anthony Clare about the profound impact of shellshock on his mental health.
Plus, we hear Spike's favourite Goon Show episode, Fear of Wages, and some magical poems from both Spike's Poems and Spike Milligan: The Serious Poet, an award-winning documentary in which Spike's three daughters discuss how their father's serious poetry reflected his life and personality.
There has obviously been lots of showbiz news of one sort or another, but not all of it to do with Goons per-se, but the individuals who populated the show. Unfortunately due to our esteemed Les not being well for a while now, this page has been left slightly undone. Please accept our apologies. He is on the mend and assures us that things will improve.
A couple of years ago: The Major Denis Bloodnok Memorial Lecture on Spike Milligan
Took place on Thursday 26th Sept at The Royal Albion Hotel, Brighton, as part of an evening with the Max Miller Appreciation Society. Their former Chairman and BBC Radio Producer John Henty gave the talk. He revealed a long lost gem, Spike performing a rare stand-up on Brighton's Palace Pier back in 1984, taken from his own personal archive.
And now a story also from a couple of years ago which I quite like so I have left it in...
Les Drew writes;
"I have to say that Puckoon is my all-time favourite Spike' book. I've read it many, many times, I've listened to the audio book version, complete with a cast of actors, including TP McKenna reading the other parts, along with Spike himself, and some marvellous sound-effects which add to the telling. I've even re-enacted bits of it to friends and colleagues! I also have the cinema version starring Sean Hughes, which was good fun, so it is with great delight that I have been invited to attend the Press Night on their second day, Weds 9th March.
Having met Spike on several occasions it was great fun to watch last year's "Adolf Hitler-My Part in His Downfall" and meet the cast afterwards to chat about the great man and I would hope to be able to do the same here. I shall no doubt be enthralled with this latest production and would like to say a big thank you in advance to Jenny Eldridge at Target Live for the opportunity."
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It was once said that the way Spike had written Puckoon it would be impossible to transfer it to the stage or screen. Well, as mentioned above they tried a film version with Richard Attenborough as the narrator and Sean Hughes as Dan Milligan (they renamed him Madigan!) but watching it back the other night it seemed very 'dry'. I expect the cast had a great time but the finished film just misses out.
Not so this Puckoon as created by Big Telly Theatre Company. It was glorious and as Silé (Spike's daughter who was sitting just a few seats away from me said), "Dad would have loved it!".
The cast of five were most ably attended by Paul Boyd, sitting at his keyboard and playing little musical interludes to one side of the stage and himself very much a part of the proceedings as the Narrator. At one point he needs someone to play the part of Julius Caesar and as all the other actors are busy he has to do it himself in his best Italian voice, " My black-a panther has-a escaped, bring-a da help". Very funny.
Talking of the cast of five, they not only play themselves in the main roles but they also play dozens of other 'parts' along the way, seamlessly switching between characters at the drop of a hat. In one very funny exchange Bryan Quinn (using just a red neckerchief) changes from a man (kerchief round his neck) to a woman (kerchief on his head as a scarf) in the blink of an eye and a turn of his heel. He even ends up talking to himself in both voices. Tremendous.
John O'Mahoney is wonderful as Fr. Rudden (he was in the Christmas episode of Father Ted on C4 so that was perfect casting) along with his other characters Blind George Devine, Mrs. Doonan and so on.
Russell Morton switches between Ah Pong the Chinese policeman and Lenny (with the arse out of his trousers) in an instant just by walking through an on-stage 'door'. He also plays O'Brien and Foggerty the village idiot brilliantly. Talking of Ah Pong, there is a very funny (hilarious) scene where Lenny lays in the coffin to try it out for size and when it is finally re-opened (having been in full view of the audience all along) it is Ah Pong who pops up, complete with silly Chinese grin. The song that he then gives us (accompanied by Paul Boyd and the rest of the cast who can all play several musical instruments very efficiently) is a wonder to behold, and as for his leaping along with his little Chinese legs popping out the top of the coffin it's all-in-all a masterpiece of comic acting.
(This door, the coffin, a table and a couple of chairs seem to twist and turn into so many other objects ad-infinitum; tombstones and so on, that the on-stage effect is spellbinding itself to watch).
Jack Walsh played the straggly-bearded Dan Milligan with great effect, even using his own legs as the props in the opening scenes "Ah!, I tink I'll bronze me limbs) which introduces the Narrator into the story when he (Milligan) accuses him of writing "crappy" legs… and the narrator promises to improve things and at least make sure that Dan comes out of it alive.
Glen Kinch (a self-confessed Goon Show fanatic) was excellent in all his roles, turning from the extremely 'jewish-looking' Dr. Goldstein into The Major, Captain Clarke and many others by simply putting on a different hat or jacket and spinning around into his new character.
Meeting the cast and crew afterwards was wonderful, along with Vincent Higgins (the writer) and Zoë Seaton (the producer), as they were as much enthralled in meeting us as I was in meeting them. Very surreal discussing the play and breaking into character myself when chatting to the actors who had only moments before been those characters on-stage. I made them laugh as much as they had made me. I couldn't help myself, and having met Spike many times I knew myself that he would have whole-heartedly approved.
An excellent production that deserves to be seen by a much wider UK audience. The whole ensemble were superb and I'd like to say more but I'm running out of superlatives so I think I'll end by saying that it was quite simply, marvellous.