I didn’t have much of a chance to connect and blog while I was in London. Now that I’m home, I no longer have that excuse, so I can start writing about the Python Reunion.
And what a time it was for my son and me. The day we got in was a rare night off from the Python shows, and so we were invited to dinner by Terry Jones and his family. He escorted us from a nearby pub (past Terry Gilliam’s house) to his beautiful home in North London. Terry is the consummate host–and not a bad chef, either! He filled us in on how much fun they were having on stage, and there was real regret when he discussed the imminent end on Sunday night. He clearly would have loved to go on and on with the show, but was obviously enjoying the time remaining.
We arrived at the O2 Arena Saturday evening with the trainloads of Python fans that were pouring in (“there’s a multitude out there!”). I reported to the Will Call window to collect my packet and ran into Andre Jacquemin, followed immediately by Ray Cooper, who was having trouble locating his tickets (fortunately Andre was able to help, and I saw Ray on the inside shortly after).
My first visit to the O2 did not disappoint. It’s a huge place, filled with restaurants and movie theatres as well as the huge arena that would be doing its best to contain the Pythons. We walked around a bit, past the giant dead parrot (where scores of people were queueing up for photos), and reported to the Green Room. There were surprisingly few people mingling around the room and at the bar less than an hour before the show. I said hello to Eddie Izzard, who clearly did not remember me (though to be fair, there’s really no reason that he should have, as I had only met him a couple of times prior to that). Helen Palin came through the room trying to locate some friends, we said hello briefly but she was clearly on a mission.
We took our seats in the massive O2 Arena, impressed at the scale of it all. This was a far cry from the City Center in New York, where I had first seen the group perform live in 1976. The stage and proscenium were huge. While I was close enough to see the group members on stage without the three giant screens, I figured I would need them to see the expressions on their faces during some of the more subtle moments. I saw some of the dedicated fans in the far reaches of the balconies, fully appreciating my own seats and and knew that these fans were hardcore enough to turn up even though they would have to watch most of the sketches on the large monitors overhead.
Terry J told me something a couple of nights before–something that the others would reiterate later–that I didn’t appreciate until the opening moments. “The audience is amazing,” he said. “They just lift us up when we’re performing.” As the lights dimmed, the opening clip rolled, and the guys stepped out onto the stage, I knew what he meant. The energy of the audience raised it all to the next level, and the Pythons basked in it despite themselves. It was a transcendent beginning to a show that kept up that energy throughout.
So many other people have written about the show itself–the running order, the performances, the production numbers and the video–that there isn’t much more I can add, other than a few impressions of my own. I thought the performances were incredible–I was tempted to say “for their age (they’re obviously all in the 70s),” but they were incredible for any age. I understand that some fans grumbled about the quantity of the video clips, but I thought they were fine. The production numbers were, I understand, divisive, with some audience members loving them, and others not very interested. The most enjoyable aspect of them for me was watching Eric take charge of the stage in a way that he hadn’t when he was younger. Of course, one of his finest moments was performing “The Galaxy Song,” without singers or dancers (except for a brief turn with Carol Cleveland).
It was great fun watching John and Terry J perform several sketches together. I hadn’t really thought of them working together a great deal during MPFC, but they seemed to be having great fun, despite (or maybe because) of Terry’s occasional lapses of memory. Of course, watching John and Michael work together had a wonderful, adventurous “anything can happen” feeling to it (and it usually did). And Terry Gilliam had some wonderful turns, including a featured role as Mr. Gumby and his always enjoyable moments in “Crunchy Frog.”
It’s hard to think of any negatives. The only thing I had a hard time with were a couple of moments when a pair of non-Python actors filled in for Graham in “Spanish Inquisition” and the second part of “Christmas in Heaven.” I really enjoyed seeing the other Pythons occasionally play one of Graham’s roles, and it would have been nice to see them continue that throughout. Otherwise, there were some wonderful Graham clips, and he was certainly remembered warmly by the Pythons and the audience.
More to come…