Monty Python Live (mostly)

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One Down, Five to Go

I never thought I would get the chance to see Monty Phython live or as was the case at least in a live broadcast.

When I was ten, I volonteered for a school trial which meant learning French instead of English. That turned out not to be such a bright idea after all when I switched to a different school four years later. Additionally to being bored during French lessons for the next years, I had just two months to catch up to everyone else in English. While not all of the Python’s vocabulary was suitable for school, they – along with countless songwriters and movie makers – played a big part in that.

More than 20 years later I still haven’t grown tired of their shenanigans. The Philosophers football match is still hilarious and more interesting than most games of the world cup. The Batley Townswomen’s Guild going all in reenacting the Battle of Pearl Harbor or the Silly Olympics are still funnier than a lot of stuff I’ve seen in the last years.

It was touching that Graham Chapman was the first Python to appear on screen; the title ‘One Down, Five to Go’ alluded to him in typical Monty Python fashion and it wasn’t the only mention. John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin were in fine form and seemed to have fun on stage, cracking up several times and improvising as a result. John Cleese’s divorces were even incorporated into the Poofy Judges. There is a picture floating around Twitter showing Terry Gilliam mid-air during the Spanish Inquisition; I dare you to look at it and not laugh.

There were quite a few guests too: it was nice to see Carol Cleveland again; Eddie Izzard and Mike Myers made appearances and Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking popped up in a pre-recorded skit (Hawking was also present in the audience).

While the original sketches played on screen and acted live by the remaining five Pythons are still killing it, Eric Idle added 16 tons of variety show elements in between. Of course you can’t expect a bunch of septuagenarians to do quick-changes and run back onto stage in 3 seconds flat, but – for me at least – those numbers were much too long and frequent and instead of making the transition between sketches smoother, actually made them even more bumpy. On the other hand, they managed to incorporate things they couldn’t have performed anymore (Silly Walk, Never Make Fun…) this way.

The other thing bugging me was the camera direction. I might be spoiled by the terrific work of the fine people responsible for the RSC and NTL broadcasts, but it seemed confused at some points and downright sloppy at others. At the end of the Lumberjack song you could see that there was something about Canada projected in the O2, but they didn’t capture it for the world-wide audiences.

All in all, I’m grateful the gents of Monty Python decided to show us what makes an Ex-Parrot once more and then gracefully told us to ‘Piss Off!”. And now number 3: The Lark…

Wonderland

Guest post by iwishyoumuchmirth

wonderland

The miners united will never be defeated

By Beth Steel

Directed by Edward Hall

Cast: Andrew Readman, Michael Cochrane, Andrew Havill, Paul Cawley, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, Simon Slater, Paul Brennen, Nigel Betts, Gunnar Cauthery, Paul Rattray, Ben-Ryan Davies, David Moorst, Jan Leeming, Edd Muruako, Jack Pike, Guy Remy, Darius Ryan, Jack Silver, Tom Winsor

Synopsis: The Midlands, 1984: Two young lads are about to learn what it is to be a miner, to be accepted into the close camaraderie and initiated into a unique workplace where sweat, toil, collapsing roofs and explosions are all to be met with bawdy humour. London, 1984: A conflicted Tory MP, a brash American CEO and an eccentric maverick are the face of a radical Conservative government preparing to do battle with the most powerful workforce, the miners. As the two sides clash, the miners fight for their livelihoods and families, and the government for its vision of a free Britain. Together they change the fabric of the nation forever.

Live-Stream from the Hampstead Theatre, Saturday 26th July, 2014

I learned about the live stream just a few hours beforehand through twitter and was intrigued. This was my first internet stream of a theatre production. I’m used to being either in a theatre or at a cinema as part of an audience, but watching a stream at home on my laptop is quite a different experience. I feared I would constantly get distracted or lose interest, but that wasn’t the case at all.

The play is set both “below” in the pit of a mine, and “above” in the offices of government officials. The scene changes between these two worlds are very cleverly done, with Ashley Martin-Davis’s set design being put to maximum use. There is a pit, pit cage, ladders, and overhead gantries. All the metal clanging can be a bit distracting because it tends to drown out the dialogue at times, but you just have to concentrate a bit harder.

While the first half sets up the story and introduces the audience to the characters in both worlds, and mainly shows the everyday work in the pit, the second half shows how a strike of the proportions of the 1984 strike and clashing ideologies tears apart friendships, and ultimately whole communities. The play stays largely sympathetic towards the strikers, but also doesn’t depict (most of) the “government” as pure evil. Especially the scene where Andrew Havill’s Energy Secretary Peter Walker tells the audience of the bombings at the Party Conference that killed the man attending in his stead is very moving.

The performances are strong all around, especially Paul Brennen as Colonel is exellent. Dugald Bruce-Lockhart is a wonderful David Hart, and Andrew Havill also stands out as Peter Walker.

The video stream will be on demand until Tuesday, 29th July here.

Watch the official trailer:

One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Sisterly guest post, crossposted here.

20140702_101458 Plakat einer flog OS-web

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn;
Wire, briar, limber lock,
Three geese in a flock.
One flew east,
And one flew west,
And one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.

 

One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Einer flog über das Kuckucksnest)

By Dale Wasserman

Directed by Zeno Stanek

Cast: Klaus Huhle, Horst Heiss, Elke Hartmann, Karl Ferdinand Kratzl, Karin Verdorfer, Christian Strasser, Robert Kolar, Daniel Wagner, Richard Maynau, Alexander T.T. Mueller, Simon Jaritz, Konstantin Gerlach, Marcus J. Carney, Doris Kotrba, Siegfried Auerböck, Karl Litzenberger, Hermine Ritter, Katharina Bauer, Brigitte Haumer, Daniela Romstorfer, Alexander Koy, Caroline Weber, Peter Dworzak, Max Sulzenauer, Sophie Isermann, Christian Paul and others

Synopsis: The protagonist is a wildly funny rebel who feigns insanity in order to finish his prison sentence in a mental ward rather than a work farm. However, when he meets the fellow members of the asylum, he discovers that they make a lot more sense than the restrictive and conformist establishment, embodied by a control-freak named Nurse Ratched.

Festspiele Stockerau, Tuesday 1st July, 2014

This is a really tough one to write, not only because it’s an English review for a play performed in German, but also because I’m not quite sure how to summarize the evening.

The Summer Theatre Festival in Stockerau (a small town in Lower Austria, about a half hour outside Vienna) celebrates its 50th anniversary this season with Dale Wasserman’s play “One flew over the Cukoo’s Nest”. The festival returned to spoken theatre last year after a 15 year long “musical period” under former Artistic Director Alfons Haider. While I am not the biggest fan of Haider (he’s an Austrian actor and TV presenter and really really annoying) and his often quite cheesy musical productions (which always featured him as the lead and were usually laden with crowd-pleasing innuendo and little jabs at current affairs), I must confess that I still preferred his productions to the more “artistic” approach of current Artistic Director Zeno Stanek. I think summer open air theatre should be either Shakespeare or light-hearted comedies/musicals. And judging from the audience reactions at the opening night party I am not alone in my opinion. I spoke with a few people afterwards who all shared my opinion that while you didn’t have to like Haider as a person, he still knew how to put on shows that actually got people to buy tickets and be entertained.

I’m usually not the kind of person to attend an opening night, let alone the party afterwards. However since my friend Brigitte, who lives in Stockerau, is an extra in this production (as she was in last year’s “The Visit” by Friedrich Dürrenmatt), I went to support her and to have a chance to chat with her afterwards, since we don’t see each other that often. The opening night audience is a curious beast. While in London and other cities Press Night is usually the night where the celebrities show up, in Austria it’s always opening night. And so I found myself in the midst of artists, socialites, politicians and leading figures auf economy, with said people giving interview after interview for the various press outlets present. Fortunately I’m quite good at dodging cameras. The party afterwards was quite relaxed and the wild boar sausages were divine.

In case you are wondering – all this faffing about is just my way of not having to write about the actual production. Because I can’t think of anything substantial to write. There were quite a few things that irked me, first and foremost the performance of Klaus Huhle as Randle P. McMurphy. And I don’t even have the excuse of comparing him to Jack Nicholson, because I’ve actually never seen the film. Elke Hartmann was quite good as Nurse Ratched. The undisputable highlights for me were Konstantin Gerlach as Billy Bibbit and Simon Jaritz as Dale Harding. All other members of the ensemble delivered solid, yet unspectacular performances. The production received politely enthusiastic applause, but no standing ovations, which would have been grossly exaggerated anyways. All in all it was a semi-entertaining evening, it didn’t rain, and there were very good sausages at the end.