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Always look on the bright side of life: Monty Python mark stage return with mass singalong

Comedy legends, all 70-plus, return after three decades and leave audience in tears of laughter

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2014, 10:50am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 July, 2014, 12:25am
AFP

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Monty Python returned to the stage for the first time in more than 30 years with a reunion show in London full of silly jokes and smut and ending in a mass sing-a-long by 14,000 fans of the legendary British comedy troupe.

Opening a 10-night residency at the 02 Arena on Tuesday, the five surviving Pythons performed some of their best-loved sketches and songs to an adoring crowd.

John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Terry Jones, now all in their seventies, went through more than a dozen costume changes for a show featuring live comedy, archive footage and big musical numbers. Idle, the director, had promised something spectacular, but ultimately it was the old sketches performed with a minimum of fuss - and perfect comic timing - that proved most successful.

There were many in the crowd crying with laughter as Idle and Cleese performed their dead parrot sketch, in which Cleese tries to return the bird to the pet shop insisting that it "is no more".

The pair then moved into the cheese shop skit, where every variety Cleese asks for is out of stock, and which ended with both men having a fit of giggles.

"It was brilliant, better than expected," said David Mallinson, 48, from Manchester. "I've got tears in my eyes. The atmosphere was amazing," he said.

His son James, 17, added: "The fact they forgot some of their lines and laughed at their own jokes almost made it better."

The Pythons were credited with creating a new type of comedy with their brilliantly absurd television show Monty Python's Flying Circus in the 1970s and in the later hit films Life of Brian and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The London show was filled with all the expected silliness, but also pot shots at the military, the judiciary and organised religion.

The night ended with a mass sing-a-long of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, the classic hit from Life of Brian, the story based on the life of Jesus that caused outrage on its release in 1979.

Some fans marked the occasion by dressing up as their favourite Python characters, from the knights of the Holy Grail movie to the cardinals in the Spanish inquisition sketch.

"Everybody loves stuff that's a bit silly," said Dan Stead, an IT worker from the northern city of Leeds, who wore a white knight's tunic over gold chain mail.

The Pythons once vowed they would never return, and admit that their change of heart is driven primarily by financial reasons.

The final show on July 20 will be broadcast live to cinemas worldwide and television rights have been sold to more than 100 countries, from Afghanistan to Yemen.

But Cleese, the oldest of the troupe at 74, insists it will be the last show. "It's much better to do it once really well, in England where it started, and then just leave it at that," he said.