Entertainment & Arts

Monty Python stage return earns mixed reviews

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Media captionFans give their verdicts on Monty Python show

The surviving members of comedy act Monty Python have received mixed reviews after the first of their live comeback shows at London's O2 Arena.

The Express called the reunion of John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam "comedy history in the making", giving it five stars.

The Independent gave the "desperately lazy production" two stars.

Monty Python Live (Mostly) featured classic sketches such as the Four Yorkshiremen and the Lumberjack Song

The show, the first of 10 performances at the venue, which holds 20,000 people, ended with a singalong of Always Look On the Bright Side of Life.

"Not a great deal of effort has gone into updating the script," wrote The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw in his three-star critique, adding the jokes "have dated".

But having declared himself a fan he added, "you'd have to have a heart of stone not to enjoy hearing them again just a bit."

"If Abba re-formed, nobody would expect them to avoid Dancing Queen in favour of new compositions and songs that didn't pass muster at the time."

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Image caption The show featured a number of well-known sketches
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Image caption The Pythons have said this run of shows is their last
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fans said the Pythons appeared to enjoy the night

Other famous sketches in the reunion show that received rapturous approval from the audience - which included Chancellor George Osborne - included the fish-slapping sketch.

Some of the biggest cheers of the night came when archive footage of Graham Chapman, who died in 1989, was played.

Chapman died of cancer aged 48.

Giving the show four stars, The Telegraph's comedy critic Dominic Cavendish branded it "more golden than olden".

"John Cleese was hoarse, Terry Jones relied on cue-cards and at times they looked lost amid the spectacular," he wrote.

"Yet you don't need to be a die-hard fan to take the view that none of that really mattered. The Pythons came, they doddered, but they conquered."

One show down, nine to go

By Neil Smith, BBC News entertainment reporter

The O2 has hosted its fair share of reunions over the years, from Led Zeppelin and the Spice Girls to the mighty Mott the Hoople.

It is doubtful, however, whether any have received as warm and rapturous a welcome as that that greeted the Monty Python team on Tuesday.

This may not have been the verbally dexterous, physically nimble comic performers of yore. Yet the audience were willing to forgive them any fumble or stumble.

Familiar sketches were saluted like old friends. Ancient punchlines prompted ecstatic roars of approval. And when a mischievous Michael Palin caused John Cleese to giggle, it practically brought the Dome down.

For a concert starring five septuagenarians who only had a fortnight of rehearsals together, it was a surprisingly slick and polished affair.

Elaborate dance routines, choreographed by former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Philips, helped fill a cavernous stage while giving the stars the time they needed to change in and out of costumes.

It wasn't perfect. Stephen Fry's cameo was a dud, while far too much time is spent watching old TV footage on giant screens.

Gratifyingly, though, an effort has clearly been made to give the punters something for their money. The Pythons might getting on a bit, but they still know how - and want - to put on a show.

Guest appearances

In a three-star review The Daily Mail's Quentin Letts said: "Once they were the sharpest thing in satire. Last night, quite often, they looked and sounded like a dodgy tribute band."

He added: "But the show finally reached something worthy of the hype and the high prices (some tickets on the black market were going for close to £200) when they gave us such old favourites as the Spam sketch, the dead parrot sketch and best of all I Want An Argument."

The reunion also featured a cameo appearance from Stephen Fry, who took part in a sketch about a game show host blackmailing misbehaving celebrities.

Professor Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking featured elsewhere in the performance.

Daniel Sanderson, from Hammersmith in London, said: "They looked like they enjoyed it as well, which was great, so maybe they'll do more shows."

Sally Baxter, from Swindon, said: "I saw them on TV when they started out so this was a little bit of my youth up on stage."

Monty Python's Flying Circus was made for TV between 1969 and 1974. The group also made several films including Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python's Life of Brian.

The Pythons have said their show on 20 July will be their last ever.

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