By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Eric Idle and John Cleese are “Together Again at Last, for the Very First Time” — that’s the name of their show, and these living legends certainly had me enjoying their quirky comedy live and singing along to the many memorable tunes Idle composed over the years. Cleese, as a producer, recounted how Monty Python formed (it was through fortunate circumstance) and while some of the content is familiar — from his previous tours — to see the two join forces showed just how loved they are by fans.
They talked about the origins of the group and two of their movies: Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian near the end of the first act. With Spamalot by the Victoria Operatic Society still fresh in memory, to be reminded of this Arthurian tale not only had me wondering which parts of the films they enjoyed the most. When Cleese talked about what worked cinematically, I get the sense he wants to be more involved in the production of a film. It’s a medium he’s embraced and to hear him praise cinematographer Terry Bedford as to how to comedy should be captured on film, had the movie editor in me take mental notes. His little lecture reminded me in how live skits should really get recorded so nothing is missed. Instead of relying on consistent cuts for close-ups and focusing on one character, a better technique is to go wide, and let the actors do their routine. That is, the camera is better off left to catch the action as a single shot.
This show is also an autobiography of these two knights of comedy recounting their time together, working with other up and coming stars (Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett of The Two Ronnies) and their solo projects. To see them reminisce is at the heart of what this tour is about, and each show is going to be slightly different. They did some improv around stage pieces, and they re-enacted a few routines to show that the best laughs are indeed when they screw up live. I chuckled when their Underpants sketch went an entirely different direction. Other routines included The Undertaker, Bookshop and Memory Center.
Videos spotlighted the works of both these comedic greats. Both shared equal time on stage and I have to agree with Idle that one of Cleese’s greatest roles was when he played Red Riding Hood in a filmed sketched (shown during Live at the Hollywood Bowl). I feel sorry for the basset hound (as the wolf) and at this I wanted to roll on the floor with laughter. Given where I sat, I’d be tumbling down the stairs and falling off the balcony. Cleese had the house roaring with his racy joke concerning Italians and even I had a hard time containing myself when they were talking about a time they were in Germany, trying to get a tour of Dachau until Chapman said, “Tell them we’re Jewish.” I won’t spoil the setup, but that was a moment to remember! Anyone who knows the historical connections about this location will get the joke.
If I can go see the show again, I will. Each show is guaranteed to be different, but when it was sold out at the McPherson Playhouse (where the second leg of this tour began), maybe I’m going to have to jump ship over to Vancouver and hope I can find a ticket there!
John Cleese and Eric Idle: Together Again at Last…For the Very First Time will be at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, British Columbia, October 20-22, 2016.