John Cleese — His Life, Times and Current Medical Problems show. Auckland, 10 December review.
This was one of those ‘What’s the show about? Got no idea, but he’s a legend, so let’s go’ ones. Our group warmed up by sampling the tapas at Vivace (the pig’s belly was the big highlight) and walking through the humidity to the theatre. It’s a bizarre transition to step off muggy, dirty old Queen St into the Civic, with the elephants on the walls and intricate detail everywhere you look. From there it was into the theatre itself – FUCK it was hot. I thanked the lord it’s OK now for males to wear sandals almost everywhere, in that long honored Kiwi-male tradition of ‘I just don’t give a fuck what I look like’. Anyway…
Then he came out. The show is loosely autobiographical, touching on his childhood, his relationship with his parents (his mother in particular), the Pythons, Fawlty Towers, and his life now in America. Also in the show is Cleese’s daughter, Camilla, who apparently had a hand writing the show. Brave girl. In all honesty, hers were the weakest bits, like ‘get off the stage, and bring back JC’, and so the audience never really warmed to her, but she suffered from, well, not being John Cleese.
So what we got in between was the life and times of a very funny man, complete with supporting AV material. The Pythons got the once over lightly treatment, with emphasis on the death of Graham Chapman, and how the remaining team still miss him and consider him part of the group. There was much on Fawlty Towers and the hotelier who inspired the Basil character, JC’s pride in the success and universal love for this short lived program was very evident. The best bits were the audience participation section, where we got to have our own personal moment with JC, and the dead parrot sketch re-worked especially for New Zealand audiences. With not a parrot, but a NZ national icon that had ceased to be (not a kiwi!).
As it was the last show of the tour, we got introduced to the other cast members twice, and learned they were his tour manager, PA, and tour secretary in addition to his daughter. While you’ve got to love someone who goes to such lengths to include those near and dear to him, these bits jarred with the rest, and might have been better left out. Still, even from the back of the Civic, you can’t help but feel like you’d been let into JC’s world for an hour or two, and a fascinating and very funny world it was, too.