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November in Goonland

This is a new idea - a monthly summary of Goon-related activity I've come across on the interwebs. Let me know in the comments below if you think this is any good and worth continuing!

Spike takes a final bow

It will surprise no one to discover that there's a lot going on this month. This is primarily down to the continuing success of Spike, the play by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman that finished its tour of the UK on 26 November - after receiving rave reviews at every turn.

I was upset to miss its run as I'm not in the country at the moment, but I have read the script and it is fantastic. It leaps off the page with the energy that so many people have said it has on the stage, and old Goon gags have been reimagined in a new way. I've seen lots of Goonaholics like me celebrating its portrayals of the characters, with Robert Wilfort as Spike Milligan and Margaret Cabourn-Smith as Janet the sound engineer coming in for particular praise.

Hislop and Newman have been interviewed many times about the play, including during several post-show Q&A sessions - here's The Herald's Brian Beacom talking to the pair from late October. They also spoke to the Big Issue North in early November.

There's lots on Twitter about Spike and I recommend you follow the show, Robert Wilfort, and Nick Newman.

Here they are with Ian Hislop posing by the appropriate section of Blackpool's 'Comedy Carpet'.

I want to highlight superfan Molly McDade and her amazing needlework (sounds like a title for a TV series, maybe the follow up to The Great British Sewing Bee?). She made these for the cast, and they loved them. Jolly good show all round.

Yetis in the Milligan archive!

Yeti Television (no, me neither) is to create a feature-length film of Spike Milligan material using previously unreleased film reels and recordings. The documentary, Spike Milligan: The Unseen Archive, is a 90-minute programme for Sky Arts scheduled to be broadcast on 3 December 2022.

Jane and Silé Milligan are involved, as is his grandson Hastie Harrower, alongside the likes of Joanna Lumley, John Antrobus, Eddie Izzard, David Quantick, Al Murray, and Ian Hislop.

More info in this article from Televisual.

Speaking of old Milligan things, BBC Radio 4 Extra aired a 1973 Spike special, The Spike Milligan Show, on 6 and 10 November. It's still available on BBC Sounds.

ALS HQ up for sale

Away from the stages and screens of Britain, Eric Sykes' family is selling 9 Orme Court, once home to Associated London Scripts, the writers' collective founded by Spike and Eric in the 1950s.

It was also home (well, office) to fellow Goon Show writers Larry Stephens, Maurice Wiltshire, and John Antrobus, as well as legendary comedy writing duo Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. Terry Nation - inventor the the Daleks - also worked there.

The price is £6.5m - a tidy sum indeed.

Moriarty: After him! Money, moolah, ooooh, money money money ooooyooooyoooyoo... Grytpype: Silence, reeking garlic wreck.

(from 'The Treasure in the Lake', Series 6 Episode 24, broadcast 28 February 1956)

Naughty Neddie

Many showbiz talents of the Goons' era - including Messrs Sellers, Secombe and Bentine themselves - were given their first breaks on the stage at The Windmill Theatre in between the (far more popular) naked tableaux.

Tatler hosted its annual Little Black Book party there early in November, as per this article. It seems there were far fewer comedians in attendance, and no one even attempted the famous shaving routine.

Angela Morley's legacy

More than 13 years after her death in 2009, former Goon Show musical director Angela Morley (left) is continuing to inspire people. I came across this article from PinkNews about an all-female and non-binary orchestra, the HER Ensemble.

Ensemble founder Ellie Consta cites Morley as an inspiration - but only after having researched quite a lot.

I could only have named you a handful of female composers a couple of years ago, despite being immersed in the industry for over 15 years. I didn’t even know that any trans composers existed. I didn’t know of any composers of colour. Angela Morley was a name that I discovered when I was researching music a couple years ago.

It's a shame that it was so hard for Consta to find out about an Oscar-nominated composer and arranger. I wrote about Morley in March, and about her poodle, Eccles, in August.

The Bentine genes

Dr Elliot Bentine

Lastly, although it's from October, I wanted to link to this transcript of a talk ostensibly about the work of an award-winning physicist. Not just any award-winning physicist though: Dr Elliot Bentine, grandson of the fourth Goon, Michael Bentine.

Bentine Sr was famed for his intelligence and involvement with science - his remote-controlled puppets that entertained children in the 1950s and 1960s were completely home-made. I'm sure it would delight him, therefore, to know that these traits run in the family. Here's Dr Bentine talking to host Robyn Williams about his grandfather:

He died when I was about five or so. But I do have very, very fond memories of him. He was very much a kind of big kid. I remember we used to go over to his and Gran's house, and he would have this big train set out in the garden, and we would basically drive the trains around the garden, and he would fire off clods of earth from a catapult towards them... He was one of the reasons that I ended up going into physics, because Gran had always told me that before the war he had wanted to study physics and go down that path. [Then] the war had happened, he'd been called up, and then afterwards, everything was different. And he ended up going into comedy and showbusiness afterwards instead. So he was a very passionate person about science.

Dr Bentine is a senior postdoctoral research assistant at Oxford University's Department of Physics, as you can see here.

Don't forget: the fabulous Goon Pod has new episodes out weekly. This month's offerings have included discussions of The Great McGonagall and Michael Bentine's TV series It's A Square World.


Photo of Dr Elliot Bentine sourced from Oxford University website. Photo of Angela Morley sourced from her website. Photo of Ian Hislop, Robert Wilfort and Nick Newman in Blackpool pilfered from the official Spike Twitter account.

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Roger the Saurus
Roger the Saurus
Nov 30, 2022

Thank you for the update. I saw Spike The Play and it was excellent. My only quibble was that Patrick Warner, who played Sellers, was too tall and thin.

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