A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Big Telly Theatre Company presents



Jack Walsh as Dan Milligan in Puckoon

Photographer- Conleth White


Based on the book by Spike Milligan


Written by Vincent Higgins


Directed by Zoe Seaton


Musical Direction by Paul Boyd

Leicester Square Theatre

8 - 27 Mar 2011


The pace of this mad caper about the drawing of the border which separated the North Eastern corner of Ireland from the Southern Free State, leaving the former as part of Britain, is hard to keep up with. It helps to know something about Irish history. I heard several amusing conversations in the interval while the audience tried to puzzle the matter out, but such knowledge, or lack of it is no barrier to enjoying the crazy comedy and silliness of Spike Milligan at his most absurd and irreverent best. Early on in the play, it is declared that 'everyone gets a go', and indeed many crude racial stereotypes get an outing, including a Jewish Dr Goldstein (Glen Kinch), a Chinese Garda I Pong (Russell Morton), every stage Irishman and woman you can imagine and the usual stock British military types. Puckoon was first published in 1963, you could get away with it back then.

Puckoon is a tiny village ('situated several and a half metric miles north east of Sligo') through which the incompetent British Boundary Commission draw their line, leaving a portion of the graveyard and the public house in Britain. This means that some of Ireland's dearly departed need passports and annually renewable visas to be buried, so a plot is hatched by terrifying Father Rudden (John O'Mahony) to dig them up and re-inter them on Irish soil. Also, drink is cheaper in the British part of the pub so the whole village crams itself into that corner, to the disgust of the publican and his wife, both played by the versatile quick change artist Bryan Quinn, perhaps the funniest man on stage. The plot is held together by Jack Walsh as the feckless, lazy Dan Milligan who continually questions The Writer, played by Paul Boyd at the piano, on why he cannot write him some more attractive legs. All other actors are required to play a number of parts with great comic effect, as many are on stage at the same time, requiring a great flurry of hat changing mid-scene. Russell Morton tries a coffin for size as O'Brien the IRA man, but emerges sensationally decked out as Chinaman I Pong to do a great song and dance number which brought the house down. The cast worked their costumes off, literally in the case of Bryan Quinn as Sergeant MacGillikudie, who kept replacing his green tinsel Hitler moustache from a stash behind his hat as they dropped off continually, what with all the sweating the poor man was doing. All this and so many gags, from the obvious to the sophisticated, it was a richly entertaining performance in which the cast put all of their considerable talent into play.

Props, including a bike, cardboard coffins, tombstones that doubled as chairs and a half door, were put to creative use. The musicianship of the cast was a real pleasure as they combined to form a band behind Paul Boyd to start and finish the show. Left alone on stage by a cast fed up with his manic directions, Paul Boyd is forced to do a bit of hat swopping himself in a delightful little cameo. Spike Milligan's real affection for a peculiarly Irish sang-froid is celebrated in the laid-back character of Dan Milligan. This is a great show for fans of his work and a great introduction for the uninitiated.


Leicester Square Theatre
6 Leicester Place, WC2H 7BX

Tues -Sat: 7pm, Weds, Sat, Sun matinees: 2.30pm

except 13 March: 1pm

Tickets From: £25-£23

Box Office: 0844 873 3433


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