THE late, great comedic innovator Spike Milligan’s 100th birthday would have fallen on April 16 this year.

What perfect timing for Apollo Theatre Company and Spike Milligan Productions to team up to mount a tour of The Goon Show, wherein three episodes from Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe’s BBC radio series are being presented on stage in the “the first major theatrical production in the show’s illustrious 67-year history”.

In 1951, the landscape of British comedy changed dramatically when The Goon Show burst on to the airwaves of the BBC Home Service. Milligan, Sellers and Secombe and co brought a brand of surreal chaotic humour, unlike anything that had been heard before and revolutionised the way radio comedy was produced.

Blessed with bizarre characters, fantastical plots and running jokes, The Goon Show captured the imagination of the British public and made household names of its stars, all of whom would go on to achieve fame across the globe. The show’s influence is still felt today with comedians such as Eddie Izzard citing the show as a major influence.

York Press:

The original Goon Show team of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe

This show comes from the producers of the 50th Anniversary Tour of Round The Horne, in which another radio comedy classic came alive on stage anew, proving so popular that it ran for three tours.

The last of those visited the Grand Opera House in York in February 2017, and now the Cumberland Street theatre will play host to The Goon Show tomorrow (October 24). In the cast of both shows is Colin Elmer, who switches from Kenneth Williams to Spike Milligan.

“I’m just a jobbing actor,” he says modestly of his comedic skills at capturing the essence of two greats of English comedy.

“The creation of the first show was the brainchild of Julian Howard McDowell, who played Horne in that show, and it was so well received that we thought, ‘maybe we could do The Goon Show too’, so he got in touch with Norma Farnes, who runs Spike Milligan Productions, and through her we’ve been able to do this show, with Norma co-producing it.”

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"I'm going from one comedy genius to another," says Colin Elmer, who has played both Spike Milligan and Kenneth Williams in stage shows

Norma had represented Spike for 36 years. “I had my audition to play Spike at Orme Court in Bayswater, where both Spike and Eric Sykes had their offices and Galton & Simpson had their office upstairs, so it was a real hive of activity,” says Colin.

McDowell’s Peter Sellers, Elmer’s Spike Milligan, Clive Greenwood’s Harry Secombe and Tom Capper’s straight-man/announcer Wallace Greenslade will appear in three of Milligan’s favourite episodes, Napoleon’s Piano, Phantom Head Shaver and The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler.

“Julian approached Norma with two suggestions and in a nice moment of serendipity, it turned out they were two of Spike’s favourites; Norma suggested the third, and we’re now re-creating them as they would have been recorded at Camden Studios.

“Everything is very faithfully recreated with period music played live by Java Jive’s Anthony Coote and Rachel Davies, who do all the sound effects and are wonderful musicians, singing songs of that era.”

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Tom Capper's Wallace Greenslade, left, with Clive Greenwood’s Harry Secombe, Colin Elmer’s Spike Milligan and Julian Howard McDowell’s Peter Sellers 

Colin is enjoying every moment in Goon mode. “The great thing about this show is that though it was written for radio, you are performing it on stage, so the audience are like special guests at a recording with a ‘silent audience’ beyond who would have been listening at home,” he says.

“With this show, you can see people sometimes sitting there with their eyes closed, re-creating what it would have been like listening to the show in their sitting room.”

Looking ahead, Colin will return to playing Kenneth Williams – the subject of his one-man show Cult Figure: Kenneth Williams – in Apollo Theatre Company’s next tour, Hancock’s Half Hour, from January 28 with a visit to the Grand Opera House on the cards. “I’m going from one comedy genius to another again!”

The Goon Show, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow (October 24), 7.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at