Surviving Spike

This article is from 2008

Michael Barrymore

The tortured genius behind the inspired comic lunacy

Surviving Spike promises to reveal the ‘tormented character that hid behind the public facade’. Audiences could be forgiven for assuming the blurb refers to the show’s star, Michael Barrymore, whose career was all but destroyed by revelations of the death of a young man at his house in 2001, rather than its subject, former Goon Spike Milligan, whose comic genius was offset by consistent bouts of mental ill-heath. Given both comedians’ lives have been marked by personal and professional problems, Barrymore seems a good choice to play the late, tortured clown.

Surviving Spike, which was written by Richard Harris (The Darling Buds of May), looks at its subject through the eyes of Norman Farnes, Milligan’s long-suffering PA, manager and confidante (played by Eastenders’ Jill Halfpenny). It’s a catalogue of Milligan’s bad behaviour – pettiness, spitefulness, womanising – and a homage to his inspired comic lunacy. The latter plays to Barrymore’s strengths as a performer, his own comic persona driven by unrestrained hyperactivity. And, of course, Bazza’s working with the cream of comic witticisms, all dreamed up by the man who once said: ‘When I look back, the fondest memory I have is not really of the Goons. It is of a girl called Julia with enormous breasts.’

Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, 3–25 Aug (not 11), 4.15pm, £17.50–£20 (£15–£18). Previews 31 Jul–2 Aug, £10.

Surviving Spike

  • 2 stars

Disappointingly conventional take on the life of anarchic Goon Spike Milligan. Michael Barrymore, this year's Fringe celebrity casting, offers a good interpretation of the depression and mood swings which plagued the comedian, but doesn't show any feel for his comedic genius. It's pleasantly watchable, but then neither of…