Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury – until 8 October 2022
Reviewed by Gemma Gibson
Spike Milligan was a comedy genius, inspiring the likes of Monty Python and Eddie Izzard with his witty humour, unique sketches, and hilarious one-liners.
Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s latest show ‘Spike’ pays homage to just that, as we explore the inner workings of this complex comic during the booming fifties and his successful radio show – The Goon Show.
As comrades Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers become overnight celebrities, chief writer and fellow goon Spike finds himself pushing the boundaries of comedy to make The Goon Show one of the most loved features on the airwaves… albeit with a bit of resistance from the BBC. The Big Brother Corporation as he put it.
Reflecting on the life of such a unique and inspirational comic, it was a given this production had to be funny, and it did not disappoint.
Right from the start – a brief introduction to BBC sound effects from Janet (played by Margaret Cabourn-Smith), I was already laughing and hooked. Transported to the world of retro radio, I could have watched that for the two hours.
The leading comedy trio however, Spike, Harry and Peter, played by Robert Wilfort, Jeremy Lloyd, and Patrick Warner, were of course the stars of both The Goon Show and ‘Spike’.
Their physical comedy, timing for a punch line, and fun-to-watch chemistry and banter, all while staying true to character, left the audience bellowing with laughter throughout.
A subtle look to the audience here, chaotic dance moves and a trumpet there, Wilfort’s interpretation of Spike is to be truly commended. He embodied Spike’s energy, enthusiasm and unique, and sometimes satirical, humour brilliantly.
What was also great about this show was that it went beyond Spike’s fame as a goon, tapping into his war experiences and how this affected both health and humour.
This was done incredibly through flashbacks, cleverly tied into the storyline to explain Spike’s goon-like behaviour. It made the audience look deeper into his funny side and background, a moving, humanising layer to the show.
The sound and lighting of course enhanced ‘Spike’, but it truly deserves a shout out for creating the shifts between past and present.
If you enjoy fast-paced sketches, jokes, jokes, jokes, and just plain silly-ness, this show will provide just that, while helping you learn all about one of the greats that brought this style to the forefront of British radio comedy.
Two hours of explosive scenes, endless puns, a sprinkle of romance and a close encounter with a potato peeler – it’s not to be missed.