NOT THE MESSIAH
MONTY PYTHON TEAM – IN CONCERT, THE MOVIE
Those crazy Brits, the Monty Python team, have been at it again, taking over the
venerable old Royal Albert Hall in London for a subversive, funny and irreverent
musical performance based on their movie, The Life of Brian – and they have the
po faced cheek to call it an oratorio! Andrew L. Urban reports on the eve of the
concert’s release on Australian screens (July 31, selected cinemas).
Narrated by Mrs Betty Palin (yes, Michael in a frock), this sumptuously produced
spoof was filmed at The Royal Albert Hall (October 2009, anniversary of 40 years
of Pythonism); the RAH may be grand, but the jokes and the inspired wickedness
are pure Monty Python, and the concert hall is crammed full of devoted fans, for
whom every moment is to treasure. All of this translates on the screen, lifting
our spirits with the expectation of wild amusement at the expense of dearly held
Christian tradition. But it’s not and never was intended to be nasty; it’s
rather sweetly innocent in fact, which explains its success and longevity. It’s
the English sense of humour, which has an echo (rarely exercised but real) in
Australian humour which likes to make fun of the tall and mighty.
"musically accomplished stuff"
The oratorio retells the tragic tale of Mandy (Rosalind Plowright, mezzo),
impregnated by a Roman soldier, giving birth to Brian (William Ferguson, tenor),
a reluctant revolutionary of the People's Front of Judea who falls in love with
Judith (Shannon Mercer, soprano), gets mistaken for a Messiah and is arrested by
the Romans and sentenced to be crucified.
Part One, Apocalypso, begins with rousing horns and the heavenly choir. And we
instantly realise that for all the comedy, this is musically accomplished stuff,
peppered with faintly recognisable musical phrases . . . perhaps Handel? Mozart?
The sight of the entire BBC Symphony and its massive choir, all in their formal
gear as are the soloists, performing such subversive work on this splendid,
formal stage is a sheer delight.
"as dry and bizarre as you’d expect"
Betty Palin’s script is as dry and bizarre as you’d expect, juxtaposing the
sublime with the ridiculous. There are musical surprises and a recognisable
comic air throughout the concert. My only drather is that I’d rather have had
the DVD with the lyrics as subtitles, to be able to fully appreciate their wit
and wonderful silliness. By the time the finale comes around and Eric Idle
launches into Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – the Python anthem – the
audience is in seventh heaven, singing and waving their candle-light batons.
It’s not for everyone: bigots and bores beware.
Published July 22, 2010
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