Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Penultimate Night of Monty Python

The scene backstage after the July 19 show was one of subdued excitement.

Python live photo op
Many of the folks in the green room had already seen one or more of the reunion shows, and were just enjoying the afterglow. Eddie Izzard, who had just seen his sixth show was at the bar, apparently being interviewed. It was his first time as the onstage celebrity during the Blackmail sketch, though, and he seemed to have really enjoyed his time up there with the Pythons.
After a few minutes, Terry Jones entered the room, and made a beeline to my son and me.We discussed the show, and Terry again marveled at how their audience just lifted them up and made it such a special event. Not long after, John Cleese entered and headed straight for us. I secretly enjoyed noticing that Eddie Izzard watched both John and Terry make a point of greeting me immediately, and he seemed to decide that I was someone worth noticing… Eddie joined us, and he gave John a couple of suggestions (undoubtedly solicited by John) about a couple of moments. I asked John if, during a couple of moments when lines were shaky, he had done what he had done in other live shows–leaning over and asking the audience “What’s the next line?” He said that no, he hadn’t, but might well utilize it the next night if the situation arose. 
The rest was a blur. Terry introduced me to Ian Davidson, a familiar name to Python fans but someone I had never before met. Carol Cleveland walked through the room in showgirl costume, too far for me to get her attention. Michael Palin came over and said hello, and we were able to catch up for a few minutes. Then he begged off, explaining that they had to do a meet and greet, and I told him that John had invited us along if that was okay. He was very happy to have us along, and so our group, the five Pythons and a few of us stragglers, tailed by a camera crew, made our way through the hallways of the O2, and finally came to a freight elevator. We all piled in–the five Pythons, my son and I, Eddie, their manager, the promoter, the camera crew, and a couple of other miscellaneous folks, all crammed inside. I think we went up several floors, though we may have descended–I’m not really sure, that’s how crowded and hectic it was. We got off in a large darkened storage area and headed toward what turned out to be a working pub crammed with fans who had opted for the meet and greet opportunity.
While the Pythons were being miked, Eric Idle noticed me for the first time, greeted me warmly, and asked how my little boy was. I pointed out that the young man towering over both of us was the little boy that he had remembered.
They entered the room to a rousing response, and fans who had literally come from around the world. They asked questions and Eddie moderated, and all seemed to have a great time. After about a half hour, the Pythons and the rest of the group headed back the way we came, down the elevator, and back to the bowels of the O2. Terry offered us a ride back to our bed and breakfast, which we gratefully accepted, and we had a drink in the Family Reception Room while he ran back to his dressing room for his bag.
As we rode back to North London, Terry explained that after the first show, as an experiment and at their promoter’s behest, they did an extensive meet and greet with fans, posing for photos and signing autographs. Unfortunately, it took them over two hours, and they were totally exhausted afterward, so from that point on, they did the up-close-and-personal Q&A sessions instead–otherwise they’d probably have been too exhausted to make it through the weeks of shows. I asked question after question–after all, we hadn’t seen each other in nearly five years–but it wasn’t long before the adrenalin wore off, and we were all longing for bed. We thanked Terry again as the car pulled up in front of our inn, and promised we’d see him tomorrow night for the Last Night of Python. 

Post-Python Live

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. 

MJ at O2
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…