Theatre review: Pythonesque



I DON'T know what I expected, but I didn't expect anything as smart as this. I did, of course, expect The Spanish Inquisition. And got it.

There have been murmurings about this show not really telling us anything new about the Pythons. Check your programme. Did it mention in-depth psychological analysis of the internecine struggles of six men who, between them, had more demons than a box-set of Buffy? What we get here is a brilliant telling of the Pythons' tale using the form of many of their most famous sketches. An ingenious conceit, beautifully executed by Roy Smiles who may have struck format gold. Expect his next work to be a Carry On film detailing the life and loves of Sid James.

If you are a Python fan, you'll see the multiple layers of funny, you will get the deftly introduced references and enjoy the nuance. If not, you'll still get a laugh. The performances are jaw-droppingly good. I would, on balance, rather watch Mark Burrell than John Cleese himself. Possibly because in Burrell's crisp, diamond-sharp performance you get just the occasional hint of Rowan Atkinson too.

James Lance juggles Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam and somehow manages to morph physically as well as vocally. A teeny hint of Frankie Howerd in his Eric Idle does no harm at all. Matt Addis as both Michael Palin – "a man enraged by his own decency" – and a fabulously digressive Terry Jones seems to gain weight and lose stature whenever he transmogrifies from the former to the latter.

Each of these performances is worth the ticket price alone. Chris Polick's elegant Graham Chapman is the 'straight' man here and makes a sympathetic soul out of the most impenetrable of the Pythons.


Until 31 August. Today 12:45pm.