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Monday, 29 July, 2002, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Python comes to Paris
French Monty Python show team
Pythoness Marie Pauti joins the Paris troupe

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.


The Python humour crosses borders and doesn't age - even if it is very British

Gregoire Bonnet
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.

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."

French Monty Python show team
The show has lumberjacks - but no dead parrots
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.

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

Gumby
Artist Terry Gilliam has seen the show and likes it
"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."

See also:

22 Jul 02 | Entertainment
22 Sep 00 | Entertainment
01 Oct 99 | Monty Python
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