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S. J. Parris and Stephanie Merritt

Review < Back

Monty Python Live (Mostly) – Parrot fashion and no bad thing for that

Sunday 6th July 2014

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Our motto has been 'Always leave them wanting less','' Eric Idle joked in last week's press conference to launch Monty Python's series of reunion gigs at the O2, and frequently during this bells-and-whistles extravaganza you feel they have succeeded admirably. This is very much Idle's show; it was he who devised it in collaboration with Spamalot composer John Du Prez, and the shiny troupe of dancers choreographed by Arlene Phillips feels closer to the glitz of Broadway than to the original Flying Circus. Some of the more modest two-hander sketches, with their drab postwar costumes of trenchcoats and tweed, relying on word play, pauses and facial expressions, can seem dwarfed in comparison, yet it's here that the gold is to be found.

"Who'd have thought 40 years ago we'd be sitting here doing Monty Python?" Eric Idle asks, opening a reprise of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch that operates with an extra layer of irony now that the performers are the ageing millionaires they once pretended to be. If Python was a cult when it first appeared, it has since achieved the status of established religion for many fans; this first show sold out in 40 seconds, and plenty here are dressed up as favourite characters, calling out the lines of each sketch like a litany. If groundbreaking comedy relies on wrong-footing the audience with unexpected twists and unlikely juxtapositions – precisely as these sketches did when they were fresh – then this must be the opposite. But there's a different kind of enjoyment in the singalong delight of familiarity, and the Pythons serve that up with gusto...

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