Monty Python's Terry Jones backs Colwyn theatre revamp
A fund to revamp Colwyn Bay's theatre got a Flying Circus start when local boy and Python Terry Jones came to town.
Colwyn Bay-born Terry is patron of Theatr Colwyn and on Monday helped launch efforts to raise £100,000 towards upgrading the foyer, meeting rooms and backstage facilities.
"I've got a soft spot for Theatr Colwyn because my granddad used to run the Colwyn amateur dramatic society in the 1930s," said Terry who lived in the town until he was four.
"He conducted a performance of Yeomen of the Guard here, which was also to raise funds. So it's great to follow in his footsteps."
Phil Batty, theatre manager, said the improvements will cost £750,000 in all and it's expected grant funding will make up the greater part.
Theatr Colwyn dates from the 1880s, with the first films shown in 1909
"We want to do the best for the local people who use the theatre," said Phil, who outlined plans to restore the glass frontage to the old building and use the large garage space beneath.
After launching the fund-raising effort Terry Jones stayed behind for a screening of the Monty Python team's film The Life of Brian, followed by a question and answer session with the audience.
"I must congratulate you all," Terry told the audience after the film. "I saw the last half hour with you and you were all laughing!
"When I've seen it with other audiences recently, everyone knows the film so well they don't laugh, so thank you very much for enlivening the film for me."
He admitted that his heart sank when he heard the other Pythons had come up with the idea of doing a Biblical epic because he had never been keen on drawing endless pictures of people in long robes in primary school.
But on a Python brain-storming session in Jamaica, the film began to take shape.
"Suddenly, it was clear what it was about - the church," said Terry.
"Somebody coming up and saying the right things, but then about the way all the followers split and form sects.
"Before we wrote it, we looked at lots of biblical epics like The Greatest Story Ever Told and they all had one thing in common: everybody spoke very slowly and with great reverence. So we decided to talk in silly voices, which we knew would upset lots of people."
But he recalled that most of the objectors hadn't actually scene the film, one town councillor famously saying: "You don't need to see a pig sty to know it stinks."
George Harrison makes a cameo appearance in a crowd scene, but also played a much more important part.
When EMI withdrew funding after the CEO got round to reading the controversial script, the former-Beatle stepped into the breach.
"I thought, he's a Beatle, two million quid, he can do that," said Terry. "Only ten years later did I discover that he'd actually mortgaged his house to pay for it. If I'd known that at the time I would have been so nervous!"
You might also spot that John Cleese is wearing a blanket when being crucified in the closing scene. This is because the weather in the Tunisian desert was cold and wet that day and he refused to take it off, even though director Terry didn't think it was in-keeping with the scene.
Terry also confirmed the rumours that qualified doctor Graham Chapman had indeed set up surgery after a day's filming to treat the cast and crew and that Spike Milligan only pops up in the film because he happened to be on holiday nearby.
One audience member, who'd written a dissertation on Monty Python, asked Terry about the best characters he'd ever played - or those he would have liked to.
"Stanislav Richter playing Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto while escaping from six padlocks and a sack," he answered.
"But I tended to mop up and get the characters that no one else wanted to do, like middle aged women."
He's still surprised that, as Brian's middle-aged mother, he got one of the film's most famous lines.
"I never thought that, 'he's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy' would be voted the world's funniest line," he admitted. "It didn't seem that funny when I said it."
Asked if the Pythons still keep in touch, Terry said they were due to all meet up for dinner to discuss business as they still own the rights to the shows. But they're unlikely to reform.
"I don't think Python will ever do anything again, sadly. We're all a bit long in the tooth and the trouble is, we all get on so well now. In the old days we all used to argue a lot, although I only once threw a chair at John!"