Spike Milligan – a mad genius

The curtain will soon rise on the first ever stage adaptation of the book that Spike Milligan once vowed would be his ‘first and last novel’, as ‘this damn book nearly drove me mad!’. Big Telly performs an adaptation of Spike Milligan’s Puckoon at Roscommon Arts Centre on Tuesday February 3.

Director Zoë Seaton and musical director Paul Boyd have spent time with Spike’s daughter, Jane Milligan, who has been in discussion with the creative team and has told them that her dad would have loved it – ‘‘if he was alive today, he would be in the rehearsal room having the craic!’ 

Two of the company have also had the pleasure of meeting the great man himself; Paul Boyd - “I met Spike when he came to see his daughter Jane in a show we were in together, for which I was the musical director. “Who wrote that bloody awful music?” was Spike’s opening line...”, and John O’Mahony – “I went to school with his son Sean. I remember a tall lean man, waiting with the other ‘mums’ at the end of the long school day. That’s my first memory of Spike. In our early teens our paths rejoined at another North London School. One day Spike, driving a black Mini-Cooper, roared into the school grounds, screeching to a halt at the steps above the playground. Leaping out of the car, he yelled to Sean and the two of them departed together. I never saw Sean after that.”

The ensemble cast of six featuring Paul Boyd, Glen Kinch, Richard Neale, John O’Mahony, Bryan Quinn, and Jack Quinn have been rehearsing in Portstewart, where Big Telly is based, for the past few weeks fine-tuning this bawdy tale of borders, brass, and bellybuttons. John O’Mahony remarked during rehearsals “Spike’s influence on comedy can’t be overstated. The funny man taught us that, in theatre, wherever there’s a rule…you should break it, and see for yourself. That’s what it’s been like putting Puckoon on stage, an assault course in theatrical rule-breaking.”

First published in 1963, Puckoon is an inspired piece of theatrical goonishness incorporating Milligan’s irreverence and ability to shock. Written before the term politically correct was invented, Milligan takes an affectionate pop at everyone – including the Irish! When asked how Spike responded to accusations of racism, Jane quoted her dad saying – “I’m not racist, I hate everybody...” 

The Big Telly company is delighted that Jane has been involved in the production’s development and her insight has been invaluable in ensuring the company’s adaptation remains true to the spirit of Milligan. 

To book tickets for Puckoon, contact the Roscommon Arts Centre box office at (090 ) 6625824.

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