MONTY PYTHON GOES TO PARIS
by James Coomarasamy (BBC Paris correspondent)
published on BBC News (news.bbc.co.uk) on 29 July 2002
special thanks to Terry Gilliam, David Morgan, and Phil Stubbs for the alert
Wednesday, 31 July 2002

Paris is now even gayer thanks to Les Pythons and their French stage version of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Terry Gilliam tells PythOnline readers that this is "Python reborn with garlic and a gal. I've seen the show and liked it."

Monty Python's Flying Circus (the live French version) is playing at the Palais de Glaces in Paris

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In the Palais des Glaces - an unassuming Parisian theatre near the Canal Saint Martin - audiences are witnessing something completely different this summer.

The posters outside show a group of men wearing bowler hats, jackets and ties - and stockings and suspenders.

They are "Les Pythons" - a group of French actors who have boldly stepped into the shoes of Messrs Cleese, Idle and Chapman in the first French-language stage version of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

In fact, it's not just the language that is different, for the Pythons are actually joined by a French Pythoness. Marie Pauti is the fifth - and very integral - member of the troupe.

Together, they perform 25 sketches and songs from the original television series.

Although audiences will be familiar with the films - such as The Life of Brian and The Holy Grail - they will be new to the world of the Ministry of Silly Walks and The Lumberjack Song.

Les Pythons: Charles Ardillon-Gauriat, Grégoire Bonnet, Yvan Garouer, Philippe Vieux et Marie Parouty

Wacky

The unenviable task of translating the Pythons' madcap humour into French fell to a pair of Swiss translators.

Generally, they've coped very well - they've sensibly ignored such quintessential British references as Hughie Green and Bamber Gascoigne and getting the fundamentals right.

This, for example, is the first line of The Lumberjack Song:

"Je suis un bucheron et ca me rejouit, je travaille le jour et je dors la nuit."

The critics love it.

Lyse De Roquiny from the listings magazine Pariscope, said: "We don't know as well as English people how to make it totally mad, totally wacky. That's the appeal to French public."



The difference between them and us isn't so much the language they use, but the fact that they are professionals - and we weren't.

 

Terry Gilliam on Les Pythons

Not every sketch crosses the Channel successfully, though.

The Four Yorkshiremen sketch, for example, which features a group of men trying to outdo each other in their anecdotes about how poor their childhoods were.

De Roquiny thinks it depends too much on those British concerns - class and accent - for its humour. There are other disappointments for Python fans.

No Dead Parrot sketch and - surprisingly, in France - no Cheese Shop sketch. But in a country with more than two hundred varieties of cheese, it might have lasted a bit too long.

Dark

But the consensus is that the Pythons' surreal and dark humour is universal.

The show runs June 7 through September 28

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That's certainly what Les Pythons told me, when I met them after the show.

"It is an absurd world," Gregoire Bonnet said. "The Python humour crosses borders and doesn't age - even if it is very British."

On the night I watched the show, not everyone in the audience was convinced.

Cyrille, whom I sat next to, winced through a sketch about a man eating his mother's corpse, and said afterwards that the humour had been too "heavy" for his liking.

Still, the man who co-wrote many of the scripts has given the play his seal of approval.

Terry Gilliam went to see a performance, incognito, a couple of weeks ago - and spoke enthusiastically about the show being a "real renaissance" for the sketches.

"The difference between them and us," he said, "isn't so much the language they use, but the fact that they are professionals - and we weren't."