Review: Vivian Stanshall’s 70th Birthday Party, Bloomsbury Theatre, London, Monday, March 25. By Paul Askew.

English as tuppence, changing yet changeless as canal water, nestling in green nowhere...

Yes, he was a funny old fruit Vivian Stanshall, the late and much-missed singer of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

Flourishing in an era before X-Factor and The Voice, where one-offs – characters such as Stanshall, Stanley Unwin, and Captain Beefheart – could dip their toes into the mainstream while still being themselves.

It was a packed house of Vivianados at the Bloomsbury on Monday night, to celebrate what would have been the singer’s 70th birthday, and to see actor Mike Livesley perform Stanshall’s spoken word masterpiece Sir Henry at Rawlinson End.

Livesley stepped out on to a stage of cobweb-covered gramophones, feather boas and armchairs draped in antimacassars – fez atop bonce, waxed moustache, plus-fours and odd three-quarter length socks, looking every inch the essence of Sir Henry.

“How nice to be in England, now that England’s here. I stand upright in my wheelbarrow and pretend I’m Boadicea,” he bellowed, accompanied by eight-piece orchestra Brainwashing House.

Of course we were not watching Viv – we knew that – but an actor with an obvious affection for Stanshall’s work, and a love shared by an audience who’d probably heard the Rawlinson End shows many times. But with such rich language who cared about that?

“If I had all the money I’d spent on drink, I’d spend it on drink!”

Like the Goon Show before him, Stanshall created a unique bunch of characters, forever in the hearts of the assembled Stansh-oscenti. Characters such as Reg Smeeton, Seth One-Tooth and Old Scrotum the wrinkled retainer. Yes, an Edgar Allan Poe Pourri of wordplay, madness and charm.

Even keyboardsman Rick Wakeman, who played on Stanshall’s Teddy Boys Don’t Knit album, showed up to join in on piano.

It was a night to welcome old friends and bandmates, or in the words of Viv’s main Bonzo collaborator Neil Innes “a bunch of coffin dodgers”.

Rodney Slater and Innes, on sax and uke respectively, had kicked things off with a “jazz fusion” version of the Bonzos’ Canyons of Your Mind; Sam Spoons sung Jollity Farm; and Kingston’s very own Bonzo, Vernon Dudley Bowhay-Nowell, – apparently the inspiration for Old Scrotum – sang We Were Wrong with “Legs” Larry Smith.

John Otway stumbled on, lyrics in hand, to run through The Strain – a touch of “scatalogical rock and roll” – while writhing about the stage in that jerky but “really free” way of his, but the most poignant songs were left until the end – the Cockney slang-riddled Ginger Geezer and the melancholic Cracks are Showing.

It was an apt way to end a night celebrating a man with a rich and unique talent – who left this world before he’d had enough fun.

“The cracks are showing, the cracks are showing, listen to the loonies croon...”