Based on the 1963 novel by legendary British comedian Spike Milligan, Big Telly’s critically acclaimed production of Puckoon returns for another tour the UK and Ireland.
Set in the titular Irish village in 1922, the residents of Puckoon wake to find that the map of Ireland has been redrawn overnight, with the border between North and South cutting the village in two. With drink 30% cheaper in one corner of the pub, life in the newly divided Puckoon is thrown into an uproar. Director Zoë Seaton describes the production as “the perfect blend of chaos and comedy.” The extremely dextrous company of six actor-musicians go hammer and tongs with Milligan’s absurd comic work.
Paul Alexander Boyd is the award winning musical theatre writer, composer, and director behind Puckoon.
Hi Paul. Thanks for chatting to us. How have you been enjoying the tour so far?
Well Belfast is only our third show of this tour, but this is the third tour we’ve had. We had the show on the road in 2009, and again in 2011, which included a West End run. The reception has always been remarkable. Our audiences have been so kind to give us standing ovations. Because it’s Spike Milligan’s work, people have a great love and affection for Spike’s work. He had a great sense of humour about all kinds of things, which we include in the show.
Were you familiar with Spike’s work before taking on Puckoon?
I knew Spike while he was alive actually!
Really? I feel like GNI MAG readers would find it pretty impressive that you knew Spike Milligan.
One of the reasons I was so keen to get involved was because I knew the book, and Spike’s work, and that’s how I ended up getting booked to do the tour. Many years ago I was working with Spike’s youngest daughter, Jane. She’s been in a lot of my shows over the years. We worked together for the first time in 1998, and she was playing my girlfriend in a show, and Spike came along to see the show. That was the first time I met him. The thing about Spike is that people never knew how to take him. If you ever approached him or put your hand on him he would say, “Get your filthy hand off my dirty arm!” [Laughs] I think he lost a lot of friends that way. I’m still good friends with his family, actually. They’ve been very supportive of this production.
It’s not often you get to say you met one of the last great British comics.
He’s become a kind of myth now.
I suppose it happens with most comedians, like poor Ronnie Corbett for example. How did you go about capturing the madness of Spike’s original novel?
When Spike was writing Puckoon, he broke all of the conventions of writing a book, just like when he was working on the radio he broke all the rules of working on the radio. So in Puckoon you have characters not wanting to be there, or they will directly address the author of the book. It’s all very subversive. When we were putting the show together that became very important to us. I play the role of the writer, and the characters question my motives, or when I give a piece of narration they will sometimes refuse to do! We like to think, if Spike had have adapted the book for the stage himself, our production of Puckoon is probably what he would have done. That’s our yardstick for deciding how well we’ve done. It’s the closest thing to seeing Spike Milligan live on stage that you’ll ever see.
Puckoon is showing at The Mac until April 30. For tickets visit themaclive.com