LONDON – The dead parrot routine, the Spanish Inquisition and the silly walk will all be performed on stage this week for what the five remaining members of the Monty Python comedy team, all in their 70s, said Monday will probably be their last reunion.
“Monty Python Live (mostly): One Down, Five to Go” opens at London’s cavernous O2 arena on Tuesday for 10 performances, with the last one on July 20 to be broadcast worldwide.
In addition to famous Python skits, it will be a fully staged theatrical extravaganza with dancers and an orchestra. It will also feature a filmed appearance by Python Graham Chapman, who died in 1989, and a cameo for British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, the Pythons said at a news conference.
The surviving members of the comedy team, which became an international sensation in the 1960s with their quirky comedy program “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” said they did not expect to perform together again on stage — and that is why they are broadcasting the last show.
“When we thought it was going to be the last one, we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to put it on around the world so it’s a world event?’ ” Eric Idle, who directed the show, said. “It means that you’re actually going to say goodbye publicly on one show, and no one has the chance to do that. The Beatles didn’t get a last ‘Good night,’ and I think that’s rather lovely. I think it’s dear and sweet and gracious, and I’m very grateful that that’s come to be,” Idle said at a London theater.
He and fellow Pythons John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam sat at a long table with a screen behind them showing a graveyard with a tombstone engraved “G Chapman.”
Before they came on stage, a video clip was shown featuring Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, who is also in his 70s, wondering — tongue in cheek — why anyone would want to see a comedy team that old.
Idle said that while the show would have dancers and an orchestra, they were basically going to perform their most famous routines, with a tweak here and there — much as veteran rock groups like the Rolling Stones do on tour.
“If you go out and do a stadium, and you’re going to look at your material, they’re going to want to see, they want to see the parrot, they want to see ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together,'” Idle said, referring to a Stones classic, and their own famous routine about a man trying to return a dead parrot to a shop.
“It would be folly to try and write better things than our best at this age. It would be stupid, so we’ve changed it up and put some surprises in — there’s a bit of filming and then there’s some guests … a couple of really interesting guest stars, which I’m just going to tease you with.
“Can I say? Stephen Hawking is actually in the show. He’s coming to it too, and he’s a big Python fan, so he was asked if he wanted to do the show, and in one minute he said yes.”
Palin said the costume changes and performing the routines take stamina, but he thought the Pythons were up for it. “We want to be energetic. I mean, the opening number is energetic. We leap around and all that. And that really sets the standard. I’m really quite worn out even after the first number,” Idle said.
“But throughout that, you’ve got Mick Jagger. You’ve got to take that example that we can still move fast around the stage, so a slight madness takes over and you leap about at certain points — well, I do.”
“Yeah, it’s the next day when you realize what you’ve done to your body,” Gilliam added.