Bittersweet goodbye to a great star. Unfortunately ruined by progeny and her mates.

Last night the best girlfriend and I went to see John Cleese live at Dunedin’s gorgeous Regent Theatre, a beautifully restored venue from 1928. Being a lifelong fan of his work with and without Monty Python, this was of course an opportunity I couldn’t miss. Unfortunately not a lot of other Otagoians thought so, as there were empty seats in both shows.

Going on a little diatribe here, it is completely and utterly beyond any rational thought why John Cleese should face empty seats, while the 1830 available tickets for “The best of British Mediums” are already sold out. The rather sheepish looking lady at the ticket counter was not able to explain it to me either. I mean, how low can you go?

Aaaaaaaanyway, back to John Cleese:

Instead of being a relaxed, improvised 2 hour conversation with the audience about his life (as Peter Ustinov did so masterly), this was a rather lame 2 hour matinee that for some unknown reason featured his daughter, a skinny teen devoid of any thespian talent. Accompanying them were two young men (probably her friends) and another skimpily clad blonde girl whose presence was obviously not even clear to Cleese. Unfortunately Cleese forgot his lines 3 times and had to be helped out by one of his underlings (which in itsself is no problem, but they were not even particularly funny lines) and was obviously uncomfortable with the material he had to present. There was a horrible adaptation of “that” Parrot Sketch to suit NZ clichees (which included a dead sheep and a talking parrot), some reminiscing about Graham Chapman and a rather embarassing running gag about his mother calling him from heaven. The audience was certainly good natured and was happy to chuckle at times, but it is symptomatic for the evening that his favourite outtakes from ‘Fawlty Towers’ , shown on a video screen got the biggest laughs.

The BBC reports that after NZ he might rewrite the show. I can only hope that he perceived the unease that his audiences felt during the lame interaction with his 3 young stooges and write them out of the show.

A sad end of a great career?


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