On Tour till end of June 2011
Runs: 2 hours, one interval
Review: Alexander Ray, Hippodrome, Birmingham – 10 May 2011

A rare opportunity – grab it while you can.

Warm – very warm – applause greets John Cleese as he takes to the stage. And one of the great achievements in the next two hours is the way Cleese returns that warmth. His friendly relationship with the audience strikes as genuine, and in an industry renowned (falsely perhaps) for its bitchiness, Cleese never falters in his admiration for some of the great comedians and comedy writers he’s worked with.

He begins by teasing us about why he’s not enjoying his retirement . . . and we’re informed that he’s broke. Thanks to the most recent ex-Mrs Cleese, American Alyce Faye (a cross between Bluebeard and Heather Mills), who screwed (is screwing) 20 million dollars out of him. So the reason is simple: ‘I’m broke.’ The history of his relationship with Heather Bluebeard is told with hilarious bitterness.

Unburdened of this load, Cleese embarks on an easeful trot through his life – his family name was Cheese, by the way. Although not surprising in form, it’s totally absorbing. Recounted with a gentleness I’d not expected (perhaps it comes with age), it’s both absorbing and warmly humorous. He sounds, still, surprised at his own good fortune. ‘How lucky was that!’ he says, speaking of an early break.

The evening is generously sprinkled with extracts from films and Fawlty Towers. His story of the Fawlty origins are a delight. It would have been good to have seen more of Monty Python; he tells us of its origins, too, and, with him, we are able to bemoan the loss of a flexible management at the BBC, that allows vision and creative flair to flourish. Auntie has now aged into a dying great-Auntie.

Some of the great Monty team are gone; others are gone on to other things. But time don’t stand still, and perhaps my years show in that I feel we shall never see their like again. So don’t miss this rare chance for a different, a fabulous, and a tickling evening.

2011-05-11 14:23:51

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