The last couple of weeks have been a blur of excitement! Sorry I haven't been on online to keep you all updated, but between travel and the flu I haven't been on the computer. I'll try to make up for it now, though, and I apologize if I repeat things that people have already mentioned - I haven't taken the time to read any posts so that I can get this out quickly.
So...Not the Messiah!
I arrived at the Royal Albert Hall early the morning of the 23rd to make sure I knew my way around, and took photos with the Not the Messiah poster outside. (On a side note, I tried getting a hold of this poster later. I gave the Marketing department a ring after being turned away at the merchandise table, but to no avail. It was needed for archive purposes...ah well.) Having sufficiently explored the building as much as possible, I walked down the street to the Royal Geographical Society, hoping for some large bronze plaque of the RGS presidents, with Michael Palin's name freshly engraved. Again, I was disappointed, but I did leave him a nice little note in the lobby guestbook.
I anxiously whiled away the hours in the breathtaking museums, the returned to the Royal Albert Hall for dinner at the Hall's cafe. Which was, frankly, a bit of a disappointment. I was hoping to be eating around other Python fans - to see people dressed up and reciting sketches. Rather, it appeared to be a dull, theater-going crowd. It's a shame I couldn't have been at the Queen's Arms. It was at this point, however, that I left the cafe by the door entering the theater. Otherwise, I don't think I would have been able to get inside. My friend and I wandered the floors, peeking into boxes. And I think I might have seen Terry Gilliam. Hard to say, because no matter my vantage point, he always managed to have his back turned toward me... But it just could have been him. The shirt certainly seemed like his, anyway. I have a photo, so you can judge for yourself! Let me know what you think.
I went back downstairs to join the queues forming by the doors to the merchandise table. That's right - not a queue for the merchandise, but a queue for the room that the merchandise was in. There was a dramatic opening of the doors, and people rushed in from three sides. Miraculously, I ended up being the second party served. They had t-shirts (My Brain Hurts, 40 Years of Monty Python, Life of Brian, Not the Messiah), caps (Biggus Dickus), beer steins and mugs with the 40th anniversary logo, talking keychains with six Python quotes, and boxers with "Biggus Dickus" on the front and "Incontinentia Buttocks" on the back. And souvenir programs.
Did I mention, by the way, that my friend and I are dressed as lumberjacks? Red flannel shirts and the lumberjack hats. Which was extremely awkward during dinner, I might add. Not to mention hot. So all this time, I'm finding it vaguely troubling that I do not see anyone else in costume. Perhaps two people with Spamalot shirts. When I had the good fortune to go see Spamalot, it was with an audience that clearly came because the show won Tony Awards, didn't know Python, and ultimately didn't enjoy the show. I feared I would have a similar experience with Not the Messiah, and the audience makes a huge difference in the show.
So it was that I found my seat. Not only do people not seem like Python fans, but they don't understand my outfit. I find people staring at me, but with stares of confusion rather than appreciation or recognition of any kind. Bad sign.
But what was I thinking? As soon as Eric Idle comes on to the Liberty Bell March, a wild cheer goes up. Same for every Python entrance. I relaxed...and I drank it all in. I don't think I sat back in my seat for a moment. I stayed perched on the edge, fearful of missing a single joke.
Michael Palin walked on in the beginning, dressed as Margaret Thatcher. He played the role of Mrs. Betty Parkinson. And when a roar of applause greeted his proud entrance, he glanced at Eric Idle, already on stage, and asked, "Why do they titter so?"
Michael Palin finished his short introduction and left the stage. The other Python appearances were similar. Terry Gilliam came on for one line - the "I'm not" to "You're all individuals" - and a short Mexican dance with Terry Jones, Neil Innes, and Carol Cleveland. Carol also came on with some huge sheep to sing a song, and Terry Jones soloed a Welsh hymn.
Eric Idle stayed on stage the entire time, as one of the main soloists. I hadn't expected him to have such a prominent role, and was very happy. He saved all the best lines for himself, of course. The other soloists embraced their roles, and got into the spirit of the show. And it was a real treat to have John du Prez conduct the orchestra himself. The music was fantastic. The changing styles of music were great fun - from rock to Broadway to classical to doo-wop...quite an eclectic selection.
For the song "You're the One," which was very reminiscent of Spamalot's "Find Your Grail," the audience was given electric candles to wave. It was phenomenal to watch the room slowly light up, knowing that for each candle there was a Python fan...and I was proud to be one of them.
At one point, Eric Idle referenced the lumberjack song, and my friend and I leaped out of our seats to applaud. I don't think he noticed, but who knows? And the people around us appreciated our costumes at last.
Meanwhile, Michael Palin reprised his role as the jailer. And Pilate. And, for the encore...Bevis! Yes, he performed the Lumberjack Song with the Pythons supporting. I couldn't have been happier wearing anything else...
This is, of course, after the formal end of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." Again, I was proud to be singing the song with that audience. Not to mention the Pythons.
At the end, confetti rained down. Confetti in the shape of feet. I managed to pick one up on my way out - it will go with the confetti I picked up from Spamalot!
I rushed out of the doors to begin a long wait outside the stage door. It was largely quiet, apart from one very outgoing, very knowledgeable Python fan for whom I held great respect. As it turned out, this was Cardinal Fang herself. I met Kisch shortly after. Strange to see "familiar" faces outside that cold stage door at 11 PM. Still, I was glad I got a chance to meet you guys.
I waited a total of three hours, in which ushers often told us to piss off. Not in those words, exactly, but that's probably what Eric Idle would have said. Until Eric himself came out at last. It was probably about midnight by that time, and unfortunately Cardinal Fang had just departed. Eric came out with his wife, who quickly hurried into the waiting taxi, while he kindly stayed to sign autographs. And he was extremely patient, while Michael (the nice one?) had driven off with the two Terrys hours ago. Or so we were told by the irate usher. But Eric was nicer than I could have expected considering the crowd and the late hour. He chatted as he signed, answering questions and carrying on a nice little conversation with Kisch that I believe is on YouTube. Just a wonderful man.
About an hour later, Carol Cleveland popped out. She was certainly surprised to see us still gathered around - there were maybe a dozen by then? - but also treated us very kindly. Just a sweet lady, and it was a thrill to meet her.
So, content with both autographs, not to mention photos with each, I went home.
My stay in London was not over, though, and I subsequently bought Halfway to Hollywood and a picture of Michael Palin from the National Portrait Gallery, and watched the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus! Which is a fantastic movie, by the way. That man really is a visionary.
Part Two...John Cleese!
Yep, I went to see John Cleese with Lady April today. It was incredible to have the opportunity to see all the Pythons within two weeks. I tried to give him a (belated) birthday gift during his Q&A session, but unfortunately there wasn't time for me to ask a question. I did give it to one of the people at the merchandise desk, who mentioned that she would be seeing John Cleese later. Fingers crossed!
I went with a plush albatross. Which I thought fitting, as he calls this his alimony tour - I, too, have an albatross around my neck. And the best moment for me came right at the beginning. Several of us gave him a standing ovation when he came on stage, and he acknowledged my albatross and laughed. Hooray!
The merchandise table had t-shirts (a tour shirt listing the cities; "JC" with the silly walk poses along the bottom; "I Saw John Cleese" and his face on the front, with "Alimony Tour: Year One" on the back; "I Saw John Cleese" on the front, with "just before he died" on the back), keychains, and caps (JC or "What Would JC Do?"). I bought the shirt with the silly walk, because those were also autographed!
The talk itself was biographical. Not a lot of new information, frankly, for those who have read the Pythons Autobiography, but it was still a completely different experience hearing it from John himself. He also included many clips, interspersed throughout the talk. These included the 1948 Show, Flying Circus, Meaning of Life, Holy Grail, Fawlty Towers, Wanda, and his eulogy for Graham Chapman. He also had some nice photos from his childhood up through the Footlights.
He talked about his relationship with his mother, the importance of black humor, and how the world is crazy. Nice way to wrap things up, you know! (Actually, I couldn't hear most of the end because I was waiting in line for the microphone for the Q&A.)
Thank you to the bored people who read all the way through. You must need lives! Forgive me, I couldn't even read it all again to proofread, so I hope it's okay. I apologize again for my tardiness. Hope you enjoyed reading it!