A Sockful of Custard review at Pleasance Theatre, London – ‘a moving tribute to Spike Milligan’
It’s difficult to imagine now the influence The Goon Show had on a post-war British audience. Austerity had extended the privations of war and the nation was in need of laughter. A whole generation of comedians emerged and Spike Milligan, the creator of The Goon Show, was arguably the most surreal of these. His anarchic humour inspired many future writers and performers including Chris Larner and Jeremy Stockwell.
Their tribute to Milligan, A Sockful of Custard, is a biography of sorts that briefly explores his career while attempting to shed light on what made the man tick.
Inevitably the story refuses to take a straightforward narrative path, but instead pit’s Larner’s enthusiastic fanboy director against Stockwell’s wide-eyed interpretation of Milligan. By creating this odd undercurrent of friction, we are given a sense of how Milligan was baffled by straight lines, common sense and structure. Of course, he could also be deeply frustrating to other artists, and this is acutely realised as the pair explore Milligan’s unlikely foray into the West End with Frank Dunlop’s production of Oblomov.
Often misunderstood and plagued by mental health issues, Milligan’s irreverence never deserted him and Stockwell instinctively captures the paradoxical genius of the man. Amid the chaos of audience participation, abandoned storylines and biographical details, Stockwell and Larner reveal a man of great humanity. His clown-like humour was neither cynical nor abrasive and their interpretation of his career is a fitting eulogy for the man who taught a nation to laugh again.