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Delve Into The Mind Of Spike Milligan At Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

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A new play explores the brilliant brain of Spike Milligan, the founding father of modern comedy, running at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from 25-29 October

Spike, the absurdly funny new play by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman (The Wipers Times, Trial by Laughter, A Bunch of Amateurs) delves into the inner workings of one of our most unique and brilliantly irreverent comedy minds.

Arriving at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from 25-29 October, the show is set in 1950s austerity Britain, where out of the gloom comes Goon mania as men, women and children across the country scramble to get their ear to a wireless for another instalment of The Goon Show.

X A Spike Uk Tour Pamela Raith Photography

While Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers get down to the serious business of becoming overnight celebrities, fellow Goon and chief writer Spike Milligan finds himself pushing the boundaries of comedy and testing the patience of the BBC.

Flanked by his fellow Goons and bolstered by the efforts of irrepressible sound assistant Janet, Spike takes a flourishing nosedive off the cliffs of respectability and mashes up his haunted past to create the comedy of the future. His war with Hitler may be over, but his war with Auntie Beeb – and ultimately himself – has just begun. Will Spike’s dogged obsession with finding the funny elevate The Goons to soaring new heights, or will the whole thing come crashing down with the stroke of a potato peeler?

Starring Robert Wilfort (Gavin and Stacey, Bridgerton) as Spike Milligan, Patrick Warner (Peter Cook in The Crown, One Man, Two Guvnors and The Play That Goes Wrong) as Peter Sellers, and Jeremy Lloyd (The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, Trial by Laughter) returning to his critically acclaimed role as Harry Secombe, with Margaret Cabourn-Smith (Motherland, Miranda, Buffering) as Janet.

Writer Nick Newman reflects fondly on being a Goon Show fan: “I remember when I was at school, just crying with laughter reading Spike’s war memoirs. And The Goon Show, I was brought up on it.” 

The play depicts the battles between Milligan and the BBC, and Ian Hislop expands on why Spike struggled with the institution: “Spike always hated the BBC. He was furious that they didn’t pay him enough money and didn’t respect him and were trying to get rid of him. There was something about institutions that he found incredibly annoying – but also productive and comforting. He wouldn’t have been who he was without them. After all, the BBC gave him two brilliant producers, who made the anarchic mess that was the Goons into one of the greatest radio programmes ever.”

X A Spike Uk Tour Pamela Raith Photography

Ian goes on to explain why casting has been key to this production and why entertaining in front of an audience was special to Spike: “He was never happier than with an audience. Being a tortured writer on his own, that was the downside. For Spike, the great bit was rehearsal and then performance. Or the TV chat shows. Spike would be on anything. He just loved it. So we needed an actor who would understand that, who really wanted to get the laughs.”

Ian is keen to introduce Spike’s work to new audiences saying: “There’s nothing quite as much fun as hearing a joke delivered to a modern audience that was written 100 years ago, in the case of The Wipers Times, or with the Goons, 50 years ago. And hearing today’s audience roar with laughter. You just think: that’s fabulous.”

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman said: “It’s a privilege to take Spike on tour, exploring the genius of Britain’s most inspirational and ground-breaking comedian. And of course, it’s another chance to steal all his jokes and pass them off as our own. Spike Milligan may be Goon, but he’s not forgotten.”

Join Ian Hislop and Nick Newman for a post-show Q&A after the 7.30pm performance on Tue 25 Oct. Spike is live at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from 25-29 October, for tickets click here. (Photos by Pamela Raith)

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