Pros: A delightful Goons inspired performance paying tribute to the genius of Ronnie Barker and Spike Milligan.
Cons: Some gags were so cheesy they could have gone in a pickle sandwich.
Nostalgia often has its limitations; not least because it betrays the past as grey and one dimensional. But just occasionally, it can remind us of the goodness that is sometimes missing in these digitally-enhanced lives we lead today.
The Phantom Raspberry Blower does just that producing an affectionate pastiche of BBC Radio shows through the post -war years. The most famous of these broadcasts was undoubtedly The Goon Show starring Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Seacombe. Their influence was proudly worn like a badge of honour throughout the production. The show itself was adapted from a sketch series featured in the Two Ronnies 1970s TV show, and the production stuck closely to the original storyline.
The studio of The St James Theatre Studio space was the perfect venue. With four BBC microphones positioned on stage, we were introduced to the players one by one. Jessica Bowles as BBC Studio Manager; David Boyle assuming the ‘Corner of the Yard’ Peter Sellers role; Steve Elias, rotund Welshman (a la Harry Seacombe) as Sergeant Bowles; Lee Moone, filling the Spike Milligan role and also playing an eclectic mix of characters; James Petherick clad in a dinner jacket playing the announcer, and Jodie Jacobs as the girl.
My own memories of the phantom raspberry blower only kick in from it’s features in the Two Ronnies, which ran for around 10 minutes per show. I sensed the storyline breaking down into a series of set pieces featuring victims of the phantom, which on occasion felt repetitive, exposing an incoherent plot and its origins as a sketch series.
Nevertheless an excellent cast kept the momentum going, and was impossible not to be drawn in by their enthusiasm. Idiot boards were held up to indicate audience participation at the appropriate point. Back wall projections were used, much in the style of Monty Python. Whilst all members of the cast performed with aplomb; it was Jodie Jacobs who really stood out. She played a variety of roles ranging from newspaper seller, distressed duchess to cheeky music hall performer.
The Phantom Raspberry Blower was great fun to watch and shows that comedy needn’t be too cynical, nor too knowing.
Authors: Ronnie Barker and Spike Milligan
Stage Adaptation: Lee Moone
Director: Dirk Maggs
Musical Director: Matthew Freeman
Box Office: 0844 264 2140
Booking link: https://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/book-tickets/?event=27377
Booking until: Unfortunately this show closed on the 1st November.