Sunday, 13 March 2011

"I'm a hero wid coward's legs"



On Wednesday we trouped off to the Leicester Square Theatre to see the new stage adaptation of Spike Milligan's Puckoon.

This has always been a favourite book of mine. I was a great fan of the mad Mr Milligan from an early age - I loved his poetry collection A Little Pot-Boiler, his war memoirs (Hitler - My Part in his Downfall et al) and his truly off-the-wall comedy series Q (especially Q8 in 1978).

But Puckoon was something else! Spike's first (and only) novel, it is a madcap account of the chaos that ensues in a small Irish village - where the church clock has been stuck at twenty past four for ever, so at least it's right twice a day! - during the partition in 1924, when the new border between North and South cuts right through the community.

In the ensuing anarchy, Mr Milligan's bizarre collection of characters - Father Rudden, Foggerty, Rafferty, Mrs O'Toole, Dr Goldstein, Sgt. McGillikuddie and the rest - exercise what little remains of their wits in a series of plots to outfox the incompetent border patrols.

In this stage version, the mass of characters is played brilliantly by a cast of only six actors, whose quck-change transformations between roles is hilarious. Their obvious glee in playing up to the shambolic feel of the story - "bickering" over whose turn it is to play what character, leaving the narrator alone on stage on occasions having to play two roles, the nods to the audience - is a joy to behold.

Increasingly tangled webs unfold - booze is now thirty percent cheaper in the corner of the pub that is now in the North so everyone is crowded into a two-foot square space, the church is separated from its own graveyard so burials have to be clandestinely organised, and the IRA has spotted an opportunity to smuggle bombs - and throughout it all our lead protagonist Dan Milligan tries to avoid trouble, work, and everything else (including a runaway black panther from the local circus)...
"With a roof over his head he had ceased to work, living off his pension and his wits, both hopelessly inadequate."

"The Lord said: 'Six days shalt thou labour and on the seventh thou shalt rest.' He hadn't reckoned wid the unions. Forty-eight hours a week shalt thou labour and on the seventh thou shalt get double time. Ha. It was more profitable to be in the unions.

This is a show that appeals on many levels. People familiar with the story of Puckoon (like me) will be delighted at the way its anarchic qualities are brought to the stage; people not so familiar with it will nonetheless have a great and very entertaining night out; and the visual humour of the show means that even kids can enjoy it.

I highly recommend this show (currently only on a short run in Leicester Square) wherever it pops up!

Big Telly Theatre Company's Puckoon website



If you have never read the book, Puckoon is available on Amazon

2 comments:

  1. It sounds bizarre and fascinating - I knew nothing about this … don't think I'll have time to see it right now but I'll keep an eye out for any future returns. x

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  2. It is great fun - catch it if you can! Jx

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