THEATRE REVIEW by Danny Gocs. Some of the funniest scenes on television and film during the past 40 years have involved the genius of John Cleese.
From British TV comedies such as Faulty Towers and Monty Python to films such as Life of Brian and A Fish Called Wanda, they all have the Cleese stamp of brilliance, so who better to take us behind the scenes of some of these classics.
For two hours in his show, <I>An Evening With John Cleese<P>, staged at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne last week, the comic master gives his insight and commentary as film clips are relived on a large on-stage screen.
There’s his favourite Faulty Towers scene set around a false alarm over a fire drill in the hotel, along with the fish-slapping skit in Monty Python which was deemed to be the silliest when the cast of the series reunited for their 40th anniversary celebrations, and the black knight duel to the death in Life of Brian.
Most of these anecdotes have been told before – from TV chat shows to his talks as guest speaker on the Queen Mary 2, and of course his show of the same name that toured Australia two years ago.
The star is quite up-front that the latest tour is to pay the millions of dollars in alimony that he owes his ex-wife, and thanked the audience for their contribution. He said the repayments had progressed well, but there was still a couple of million dollars to go!
Nevertheless, Cleese shows his skill as an actor and, with his trademark humour, delights the audience with each telling. The show follows a tight script as he offers insights into his childhood: even though he was a gangly 6ft tall when he was 12, he was bullied at school until he realised that he could use humour to overcome the bullying and become popular in class.
Cleese admits that he had a lot of luck in his early career and much of it was due to his friendship at university with David Frost, who was prepared to give him a chance with TV comedy shows.
Cleese has packed so much into his screenwriting and acting career in his 74 years that he barely scratches the surface in the show. It seemed to finish abruptly, despite there being lots more stories to tell. His entertaining and enjoyable journey down memory lane left the audience wishing for more.
Extra show for Sydney season
An eighth and final show has been added to the Sydney season of An Evening With John Cleese, due to overwhelming demand. The new show is on April 16 in addition to performances from April 8-13 and 14 at the Concourse, Chatswood. Bookings: www.ticketek.com.au