REVIEW: SPIKE at Salisbury Playhouse

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s hilarious new play opened at Salisbury Playhouse last night and Experience Salisbury was there to see it.

SPIKE follows the story of one of the UK’s most revolutionary and rebellious comedy minds – Spike Milligan.

Set in austerity-hit ’50s Britain, the production follows the rise of the BBC Radio comedy ‘The Goon Show’ which went on to transform British Comedy and still influences comedians today.

Combing the best performers of the time, The Goons were made up of Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan, the most original comedy writer of his generation.

In the post-show Q&A session with Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, the writers said they were keen to do something to mark 100 years since the birth of Spike (1918).

The play is clearly a labour of love, with Nick being a huge Goons fan, admitting he knows the scripts backwards. Ian explained that he came to the scripts a bit later, but couldn't believe how funny they were.

Everything that you see in the play is based on true events, inspired by a selection of letters – including internal memos and correspondence between Spike and the BBC – which are featured in the show.

“As far as we know, everything is factual from Spike’s own writing but he is known to be an unreliable memoirist!” said Hislop.

The play has a star-studded cast featuring Robert Wilfort (Gavin and Stacey, Bridgerton) as Spike Milligan, Patrick Warner (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) as Harry Secombe.

The performance opens with a hilarious demonstration in the BBC sound effects department. A young sound engineer scrapes, bangs and shakes random objects to make the sounds needed for each episode - which always ends in an explosion.

You can expect a lot of silly jokes, puns and laughs from the very beginning.

As the story continues, while Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers relish in becoming overnight celebrities, Spike finds himself pushing the boundaries of comedy and testing the patience of the BBC.

Hislop explained that Spike needed something to fight against, "He spent the 1940s fighting the war and the 1950s fighting the BBC."

As Spike goes on to fight against stubborn BBC schedulers, new producers and his own mental health, his ability to always see the funny side has the crowd laughing and clapping throughout.

The performance finished with a cheerful atmosphere and the crowd erupted in applause as the cast left the stage saying, “We love Salisbury – what a great crowd!”

Don’t miss this absurdly funny, quirky, feel-good show!

SPIKE is at Salisbury Playhouse from Tuesday 4th October – 8th October 2022 with matinee and evening performances available. Click here for more information.

Looking for more entertainment in Salisbury? Head on over to our Threatre, Art and Exhibition pages and be inspired.

Photography by Pamela Raith.

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