Opening at Salisbury Playhouse on 4th September before touring theatres across the land, it will culminate in a special gala performance at The Leicester Square Theatre in London on 11th November. Here, the Apollo Theatre Company's Artistic Director Tim Astley remembers the show...
First broadcast by the BBC Home Service in 1951, The Goon Show ran for nearly 250 episodes, including a raft of re-recordings and specials. There were originally four main cast members, with Michael Bentine departing after Series 2, leaving Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe. The original announcer on the programme, Andrew Timothy was replaced by Wallace Greenslade in 1953 after he left the show, "fearing for his sanity".
In the 1950s television was still in its infancy and radio shows attracted huge audiences. The Second World War had ended six years before The Goon Show started but Britain was still recovering. Food and petrol were still rationed and post-war austerity meant the country was still a rather drab and downtrodden place. Many who lived through the war were loosening their "stiff upper lips" and becoming more inclined to question the rules and authorities that had controlled their lives. Onto this scene burst The Goons with surreal storylines, absurd logic, puns and catchphrases. They offered a quick-fire, irreverent brand of humour that mocked those in the establishment and offered a different, far more farcical view of the world.
Goon episodes often ridiculed the pomposity of those in authority and laughed at the stupidity of mankind. Characters such as Ned Seagoon, Eccles, Bluebottle, Major Bloodnok, Minnie Bannister, Henry Crun, Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty all helped engender an alternative and ludicrous view of the world. The comedy was edgier than almost all contemporary output, using mad characters, satire and ground-breaking silly or sublime sound effects to surreal effect. Those acclaimed sound effects came courtesy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It was unlike anything anyone had heard before.
Some listeners loved it, including John Lennon and the rest of The Beatles (who would often resort to Goon-like talk and behaviour), John Cleese, Eddie Izzard, and famously a young Prince Charles, who is now The Royal Patron of The Goon Show Preservation Society.
Others would just shake their heads and wondered what on Earth it was all about.
Milligan is considered by many as "the grandfather of modern British comedy" due to his work on The Goon Show and subsequent comedies. Peter Sellers would go on to become a world-famous comic actor, best known for playing Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies; and Harry Secombe remained a well-loved actor, singer and entertainer throughout his life, memorably playing the role of Mr Bumble in the musical film Oliver!.
Few radio comedies have endured so well. Episodes of The Goon Show are still repeated around the world today, including in New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Australia - and the BBC continues to release them on CD.
This new stage production from The Apollo Theatre Company is the first-ever major theatrical recreation of the show and promises to bring the chaos, absurdity and hilarity of The Goon Show to life with a live band, live sound effects and, of course, recreating The Goons themselves in a celebration of Spike Milligan's finest creation in this, his centenary year.