Preview – The Goon Show tour

The Apollo Theatre Company is bringing to life The Goon Show, coinciding with the 100thanniversary of its creator and main writer’s birth, Spike Milligan.

Tim Astley, artistic director, promises it will be like being in the audience for an original recording of the show, which ran from 1951-1960. This is a tantalising offer for those of us who discovered the magic of the Goons only after they were all but over. I say ‘all but’ as there was one last hurrah in 1972 when the BBC produced The Last Goon Show of All as part of its 50thanniversary celebrations. And even that is too distant for many people today to remember.

Milligan effectively invented alternative comedy with the surreal, hilarious and anarchic world of the Goons. It was like nothing that had gone before and it owned its take on the world throughout its run, the nearest thing to it not coming until Monty Python in 1969.

But analysis is often the death of comedy so it was a joy to see from the extracts presented at the press launch that we can expect nothing more or less than a faithful capturing of the Goon Show as we know it from the recordings. The talented cast have the unenviable task of taking on roles created by comedy giants Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe but it looks like they are more than up to the job with the show coming as it does from the same stable that brought to life Round the Horne, which played to critical acclaim a couple of years ago. At the launch I particularly enjoyed hearing Neddie Seagoon, Minnie Bannister and the famous Eccles, amongst others. In conversation with some of the cast afterwards it was clear they share a passion for classic comedy, and this underpins their performances.

The Goon Show is still broadcast every week on Radio 4 Extra. Try one and you’ll find they have stood the test of time remarkably well. Partly this is because their starting point is the classic comedy theme of a healthy disrespect for all types of establishment – especially parliament, army officers and the BBC itself. Biting the hand that feeds you was not something that worried Milligan and it is a credit to the Beeb that it allowed the Goon Show to flourish even within the confines of ostensibly a light entertainment/variety format.

I must also mention what a privilege it was at the launch to hear from Norma Farnes, Spike Milligan’s agent, and so a rare direct link with a true comedy genius.

This new production tours from September 2018.


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