A Sockful of Custard
- Gareth K Vile
- 2 August 2018
This article is from 2018
Radio anarchist and pioneer is celebrated
Part autobiography and part reflection on the post-war surrealist comedian, A Sockful of Custard follows the life of Spike Milligan. Displaying bouts of Milligan's anarchic humour – which were undermined by his frequent bouts of depression – the production veers into meta-theatrical commentary on the making process, and the importance of Milligan to the performers, sometimes losing the biographical narrative beneath the mayhem but emphasising the importance of Milligan in pushing the boundaries of British comedy.
Paying respect to Milligan's legacy is a hard task: known to be difficult, his disruption of expectation saw him refusing his status as national treasure, even insulting Prince Charles' attempts to flatter him in old age. The Goon Show, still regarded as a watershed moment in British radio, defined an unconventional, chaotic attitude that influenced Monty Python and its absurdism intrudes into Sockful's more reflective moments, lending the production a suitably uneven flow.
Sockful struggles to balance the elements – the fractured, episodic biography gives way to a melancholic description of the times that the performers met their ageing hero – and, like The Goon Show, collapses into chaos at times. Yet the sincerity of the intention, and the attention to his life's contours, even if his motivations remain obscure, push this beyond a mere hagiography.
Pleasance Dome, until 27 Aug (not 13, 20), 8pm, £10–£12.50 (£9–£11.50).