Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Katie Lias’

I was never really a fan of The Goon Show. Well, I wasn’t born when it started and was still at junior school when it ended. Though I’ve subsequently heard repeated episodes, for me it was never able to compete with Beyond Our Ken and The Navy Lark, both of which started shortly before it ended. When Ian Hislop & Nick Newman’s show began, in a replica of the radio studio, I thought it might be just a homage to it, but its more than that, even though its the part of Spike Milligan’s life that it covers.

Each half starts with a brilliant sound effects demonstration by Janet, illustrating her contribution to The Goon Show and how this changed over time. Co-incidentally, the last show we saw at the Watermill just three months ago, Brief Encounter, used similar sound effects created before your eyes. From here we meet its principle writer, Spike Milligan (I didn’t know that), fellow performers Harry Secombe & Peter Sellers, producer Dennis Main-Wilson & his successor Peter Eton and the BBC Executive and bane of all their lives as they write and perform these madcap shows – 250 of them over nine years.

Based on this showing, they were a lot funnier than I remembered. They were ground-breaking in their surreal eccentricity, largely due to Milligan it seems, and went on to influence many that followed, including Monty Python and The League of Gentlemen. In between show recordings, we see their relationships grow and develop, and Spike’s mental health decline under the pressure of having to deliver scripts to deadlines, which made the recordings themselves seem like light relief.

Paul Hart’s production, with an authentic period design by Katie Lias, is very slick and fast paced and the outstanding cast, led by the excellent John Dalgleish as Spike, deliver with bells on. Margaret Cabourn-Smith is particularly charming as sound effects Janet and Jeremy Lloyd captured the essence of Secombe brilliantly. Peter Dukes stood in for the isolating George Kemp as Peter Sellers and did a remarkable job, without a script in sight.

A charming, nostalgic and funny show that reminds you of the manic genius of Spike Milligan, who went on to do so much more and have a profound influence on generations to come.

Read Full Post »

Stiles & Drewe are one of Britain’s most underrated musical theatre creators. This was their first (proper) show, staged here at the Watermill some 30 years ago. Both Julia McKenzie and Cameron Mackintosh championed their early work (McKenzie directing and Macintosh producing the premiere of this). McKenzie went on to direct their next show, Honk!, a surprise winner of the Olivier Best Musical Award (beating Mamma Mia & The Lion King!) after it transferred (also from Newbury) to the NT.

Mackintosh has remained their theatrical godfather, commissioning them to successfully refresh and renew Mary Poppins and Half a Sixpence, though other lovely shows like Soho Cinders and Betty Blue Eyes have had less success. I’ve seen it twice before (Tricycle 1990 and Tabard 2010) and now it’s back at the Watermill, this time in the garden, given our ongoing pandemic caution, and I’m delighted to report its a treat all over again.

Based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories, we follow the elephant child, accompanied by the flightless kolokolo bird, in search of the giant crab, who is causing floods by playing with the sea. Along the way, we meet a rhino, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, leopard, jaguar, crocodile, kangaroo and yellow dingo dog, and visit the parsee man on his island. A wise old magician acts as our narrator.

It’s amazing how these (mostly) animal characters are created through costume colour, a scarf here and a hat there, hair made to look like a mane and some stripes on the arms, in Katie Lias’ brilliant homespun design. As is customary at the Watermill, nine talented actor-musicians play all of the instruments as well as all of the characters, human or animal. It works brilliantly in the theatre’s lovely garden, animals able to spill out from the stage and roam around the audience. Abigail Pickard Price’s staging is as delightful as the story and Stiles’ catchy songs and Drewe’s witty lyrics work their magic.

An absolutely lovely afternoon, not to be missed, whatever your age!

Read Full Post »