When Spike Milligan sat down to write the first part of his war memoirs he wanted to give it the title “It’ll be all over by Christmas”. He later told his manager, Norma Parnes, his father and Winston Churchill both said it in the early days of World War II. Norma however did not like the title and told him to come up with another and so ‘Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall’ was born.
The book itself was a huge success and a film adaptation quickly followed but we’ve had to wait nearly 40 years for a stage adaptation, and it is truly worth the wait.
Drawing largely from Milligan’s first four War memoirs, the production is presented in the form of a concert party with Spike’s character providing a fast and furious narrative throughout. Sholto Morgan delivers a fantastic portrayal of the Young Gunner Milligan displaying everything from the Goonish comic creativity through to the pure tragedy of his ultimate nervous breakdown in the frontline of wartime action.
There is much in the way of barrack room humour (so not really one for the younger audience) and dance tunes including a version of Count Basie’s One O’Clock Jump performed from a Tin Bath, a wonderful a capella version of Sheikh of Araby and a moving version of Swing Low Sweet Chariot.
The production is a wonderful example of tragicomedy that never fails to surprise. Watching this production certainly made me feel closer to the phenomenon that was Spike Milligan, giving an insight into the creativity that would later produce The Goon Show and the comical writing that would go on to make people laugh for generations.
Not a production to be missed, Adolf Hitler: My Part In his Downfall will continue at The New Theatre until Saturday.