Pythonesque

****
4 stars

Pythonesque is a structured comedy written by Roy Smiles and given a smooth direction by Michael Kingsbury. The play opens with a deceased Graham Chapman arriving at the gates of heaven. There he meets an officious janitor type character speaking in a North Country accent. Chapman has to justify to ‘The Management’ of heaven he is worthy of entry. Even heaven has its own bureaucracy. Thus the absurdism begins.

Chapman recounts the history of the Pythons. Sketch after sketch move the story on from their inception to the parting of the ways. Also each of the Python group gives monologues. Matt Addis (Michael Palin/Terry Jones), Mark Burrell (John Cleese), James Lance (Eric Idle/Terry Gilliam) and Chris Polick (Graham Chapman) all give remarkably life-like impersonations of the Pythons as young men. Matt Addis also gives a cameo of the almost forgotten Carol Cleveland. The cast also take on many other characters in the style of the Pythons.

Parodies of the classic sketches are included. The whole mix is delightfully funny. In a show packed with good material it is difficult to select just a few high points. However, James Lance does a superb send up of an egotistical David Frost as well as an Eric Idle type rant on the whole Festival jamboree.

As a Python fan, I enjoyed the production immensely. Those who enjoy surreal and silly humour should be attracted to this production. Does Graham Chapman make it into heaven or is hell to be his fate? That is not for me to reveal.

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