The Northern Ireland theatre company, Big Telly, brought their adaptation of Spike Milligan’s 1963 novel, Puckoon to Garter Lane and after a radio play of a first half that was typical Milligan it Goonishly settled into a fantastic second act that was hilarious and wild.  Early scenes were a little too static and while I liked the fact that the ensemble cast played a series of instruments in one section of the stage around a keyboard it took a while to settle into the Northern accents and the range of madcap characters.
The loose storyline is set in a Sligo border town in 1924 but it could have been post World War II. The village of Puckoon is divided by the Boundary Commission, so that the Church is in the South but the graveyard is in the North and corpses need a passport to facilitate mad officials and officialdom.  The crazy buffoons of IRA plan to smuggle bombs and arms in such coffins to aid the struggle in scenes like Give My Head Peace.
A cast of six present a host of crazy characters and the Dan Milligan character talks to audience and author about his bad legs and a lazy attitude.  Visits to Church, meetings, gatherings and funerals add much to the mayhem, especially in The Holy Drunkard, public house.
This production compares favourably with the 2002 film now in DVD for less than the postage, that features Elliott Gould, David Kelly, Milo O’Shea and Griff Rhys Jones with Sean Hughes as the Milligan character as Spike was too ill at the time.  The film was a little too politically correct and in that regard this play is not and I loved the crazy Chinese Policeman, who never made the DVD.
Paul Boyd wrote the music and was onstage with a great ensemble of Glen Kinch, Richard Neale, John O’Mahony, Bryan Quinn and Jack Quinn. Zoe Seaton directed and Vincent Higgins adapted the box.