REVIEW: ADOLF HITLER: MY PART IN HIS DOWNFALL Hampstead Theatre

PUBLISHED: 13:38 29 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:20 07 September 2010

THREE STAR RATING The absurdity of war and rigid military discipline were the perfect foil for Spike Milligan s anarchic, surreal humour. Ben Power and director Tim Carr

SPIKE MILLIGAN'S ADOLF HITLER: MY PART IN HIS DOWNFALL

Hampstead Theatre HHHII

The absurdity of war and rigid military discipline were the perfect foil for Spike Milligan's anarchic, surreal humour. Ben Power and director Tim Carroll try to corral the late comedian's chaotic, patchily brilliant war memoirs into a show with similarly uneven success.

Instead of taming the material they provide a vehicle for its freeform style as five versatile actor-musicians stage a ramshackle Ensa-type concert party with sketches, dance and Milligan's beloved jazz tunes from In The Mood to Ain't Misbehavin'.

The hit-and-miss result veers clunkily from light to shade, from Milligan quipping cheekily at superior officers to the blink-of-an-eye death of a Royal Artillery mate.

Oh What A Lovely War and Privates on Parade handled such mood shifts better. But at its best, it is inventively staged, enjoyably zany and finally moving, as Sholto Morgan's engaging, oddly cherubic Milligan lives through the terrifying barrage that leaves him traumatised and stammering.

It's less biting satire than Milligan's personal odyssey, deploying his razor sharp, eccentric mind against the tedium and confusion of war. You get a sense of these experiences crystallising and forging the future godfather of modern comedy - and of the barrack-room camaraderie and love of jazz that helped Milligan and his 'D Battery Quartet' endure.

Until August 22.

Bridget Galton

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