The Bed-Sitting Room (play)

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The Bed Sitting Room
The Bedsitting Room.jpg
Cover of Paperback publication of play script
Author Spike Milligan and John Antrobus
Publisher Tandem
Publication date
Pages 96

The Bed-Sitting Room is a satirical play by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus. It began as a one-act play which was first produced on 12 February 1962 at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, England, where it received good local notices. However, it made little impact on London's theatrical scene for over a year, when it was adapted to a longer play and Bernard Miles put it on at the Mermaid Theatre, where it was first performed on 31 January 1963 before transferring several weeks later to the Duke of York's Theatre in London's West End.[1][2] It was a critical and commercial hit, and was revived in 1967, with a successful provincial tour, before opening at London's Saville Theatre on 3 May 1967.[3] The script was later published in paperback book.[4]

A film based on the play was released in 1970, although this was less successful. The film was directed by Richard Lester and the cast included Ralph Richardson, Arthur Lowe, Rita Tushingham, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Michael Hordern, Marty Feldman, Harry Secombe and Milligan himself. The adaptation was by Charles Wood.

The play is set in a post-apocalyptic London, nine months after World War III (the "Nuclear Misunderstanding"), which lasted for two minutes and twenty-eight seconds – "including the signing of the peace treaty".[2][5] Nuclear fallout is producing strange mutations in people; the title refers to the character Lord Fortnum, who finds himself transforming into a bed-sitting room (other characters turn into a parrot and a wardrobe). The plot concerns the fate of the first child to be born after the war.

Authors' intentions[edit]

In his 2002 book of reflections, Antrobus describes his idea as about "a man who fears he will turn into a bedsitting room, which he does, and the dubious doctor he has been seeing moves in with his fiance, declaring that it will be easier to work a cure on the premises. Therein lies the dilemma. For the doctor to heal the condition would mean becoming homeless".[6]

In a 1988 interview with Bernard Braden on ITV's All Our Yesterdays, Milligan portrayed his view of The Bed-Sitting Room thus:

Nobody ever got the point about what it was about. What we were trying to say through all this laughter and fun, was that if they dropped the bomb on a major civilisation, the moment the cloud had dispersed and sufficient people had died, the survivors would set up all over again and have Barclays Bank, Barclay cards, garages, hates, cinemas and all…just go right back to square one. I think man has no option but to continue his own stupidity.[7]

Original cast list for play[edit]

The following is the original cast list as it appears on page 5 of the 1973 paperback[4] of the script, with music played by The Temperance Seven

Literary and dramatic counterparts[edit]

The Bed-Sitting Room can be compared with The Goon Show, in which Milligan and Secombe were involved, but with a savage, cynical and even more surreal edge, and an existential despair; one critic memorably described it as being "like Samuel Beckett, but with better jokes".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Scudamore, Pauline (1985). Spike Milligan: A Biography. London: Granada. ISBN 0-246-12275-7.  pp.200, 203-204
  2. ^ a b c McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-89809-7.  pp.157-158
  3. ^ Scudamore (1985) pp.242-244
  4. ^ a b Milligan, Spike, & Antrobus, John (1973) The Bedsitting Room. Tandem: London. First published in Great Britain by Margaret & Jack Hobbs, 1970. Published by Universal-Tandem, 1972. © 1970 Spike Milligan and John Antrobus
  5. ^ "The Bed Sitting Room (1969)". Phespirit. Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  6. ^ Antrobus, John (2002). Surviving Spike Milligan: A Voyage Through the Mind & Mirth of the Master Goon. London: Robson Books. ISBN 0-246-12275-7.  pp.69-70
  7. ^ 1988 Milligan interview by Braden
  8. ^ Ventham, Maxine (2002). "Barry Humphries". In …. Spike Milligan: His Part in Our Lives. London: Robson. pp. 92–97. ISBN 1-86105-530-7. 
  9. ^ Lewis, Roger (1995). The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. London: Arrow Books. ISBN 0-09-974700-6.  p.306

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