Edinburgh Fringe 2013
"Graham Chapman: doctor, mountaineer, alcoholic, star of the first Cambridge Footlights show at the Fringe, unwitting champion of gay liberation and the only non-living member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Join multi award-winning actor George Telfer on an hilarious one-man odyssey, written by critically acclaimed playwright Tom Crawshaw."
Three’s Company return to the Fringe with this play about the life of "Python", Graham Chapman. Told directly as an autiobiography, George Telfer delivers a superb performance, standing on the sure foundations of an accomplished piece of writing.
It’s a testament to the company they can play in such an ill-conceived venue and still deliver such a strong piece of theatre. The venue isn’t uncomfortable to sit in, nor was it too hot. But it felt like being in a large container seeing a straight play rather than something immersive and weird in a container. I couldn’t see much at the back and this made accessing the parts where Telfer was seated virtually impossible to see. I am aware budgets are tight but choice of venue directly impacts the audience experience and a seat at the back was worse than even the "Gods" at the theatre Royal.
And no onto something completely different – a review of this stellar piece of theatre.
Do you have to be a python fan ? No. This is an accessible, touching, often very funny, sharply observed and written solo biography play. Crawshaw combines his research into, and knowledge of Graham Chapman with an ability to create a compelling story, an interesting story, and a significant story.
Crawshaw employs Pythonesque in just to right measure to effect this autobiography. The performer looks like Chapman and has captured his English raconteur comic-ness. It’s never over down and this is portrayal, not impersonation. Within seconds, I believed I had Graham Chapman before me. If you don’t know who Chapman is, you have an all too human being before you, about to tell you and show you his life.
From wartime years to the Cambridge Footlights, and even the birth of the Edinburgh Fringe, we get an insight, not only into how a Python (and indeed the Pythons) were influenced by they past but also how life itself shapes us for better or worse. Specifically here we see the development of a critical ingredient – confidence: confidence to stop following the crowd.
For an hour Tom Crawshaw is a safe and worthy gamekeeper for the Python Estate. This feels lovingly and carefully crafted, authentic and yet no tribute – a piece of imagined autobiographical theatre in its own right. Suspension of disbelief is instant, easy and sustained throughout.
This is a priceless piece of solo theatre, a direct story conversation with the audience, unfolding a life, revealing Graham Chapman, the queen of the Pythons – light and dark, gay among the Python "lads".
And this isn’t just a play about the Pythons, nor just about Chapman – we have insights into the birth and development of television comedy and also the emergence into public view of the gay population.
To me this feels a bit shortened for Edinburgh. There’s scope to flesh some of this out a bit.
This is a surgically accurate stage performance. Carrying Chapman, Python and the birth of public homosexuality with such competent, beautifully paced and modulated authenticity – as well as telling us a story, a history, an autobiography – this is an impressive theatrical achievement from Telfer.
Directness in delivery, we are drawn in and our interest never flags for a moment. Striking the balance between humour and the more serious, touching and tragic parts of the story, Crawshaw has got it all just right. Very highly recommended.