The Theatreguide.London Review
Hampstead Theatre Autumn 2011
This is a modest and amiable little comedy based on a bit of broadcasting history. It will make you chuckle a lot, send you out in a good mood, and maybe even teach you something.
In 1975, before Monty Python's Flying Circus became a worldwide phenomenon, the American TV network ABC bought the last six Cleese-less episodes and cut and pasted them together into two ninety-minute specials, editing heavily to make room for commercials and incidentally to censor all the mildly risqué elements, including the actual phrase 'naughty bits'.
The Pythons sued to block broadcast, and Steve Thompson has put the story into a play that, as a very amusing pre-curtain announcement reminds us, is fiction inspired by fact.
Because it's the funniest part of the story, Thompson focusses on the censorship, drawing a lot of laughs out of the fairly easy targets of American prudery and corporate lack of imagination. (In fact, the Pythons were more concerned that the editing made them unfunny, damaging chances of future film or book sales in America.)
Harry Hadden-Paton plays Michael Palin as an innocent abroad, a nice guy who really dislikes the idea of fighting, while Sam Alexander's Terry Gilliam is more bolshie and impishly troublemaking.
Issy Van Randwyck is fun as the ABC executive who simply doesn't get any of the jokes, while Matthew Marsh is the trial judge who does get them and enjoys this break from his usual run of cases. Clive Rowe is the gruff but expert lawyer and Charity Wakefield the Pythons' perky American agent.
Smoothly directed by Edward Hall, it all floats happily along like one of Gilliam's cartoons (alluded to in Francis O'Connor's set design), and if it doesn't add up to a whole lot, it's still a couple of hours of fun.
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Review - No Naughty Bits - Hampstead 2011