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Last Updated: Monday, 4 August, 2003, 06:30 GMT 07:30 UK
Monty Python learns French

By Rebecca Thomas
BBC News Online Entertainment staff

The British can be pretty territorial when it comes to comedy with classic hit shows, such as Fawlty Towers, revered as part of the cultural heritage.

Among the shiniest jewels in the British comedy crown are the talents of the Monty Python team.
The French Pythons
The troupe "adapt" not "copy"

So, it is something of a surprise that a group of Parisians are daring to bring Monty Python to the UK stage - and entirely in French.

The production will have its UK debut at this year's Edinburgh Fringe festival, after a highly successful run in the French capital.

It features some of the most iconic sketches from the Monty Python show, such as the Ministry of Silly Walks.

More essentially, the 55-minute production has the blessing of original Pythons Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones.

The show was the idea of French impresario Rémy Renoux and, for the benefit of the Fringe audience, he has provided English subtitles displayed on a big screen.

They have created a system of humour that translates into every language
Rémy Renoux, theatre producer

But, despite this concession, Renoux is cautious about how his production will be received by the UK Monty Python fans.

"It is completely unknown territory how the British are going to react," said Renoux.

"And it is especially impertinent that we are giving such a show its UK première both with the backing of the original Pythons and in Scotland, where the relationship with France has long been very good."


Renoux approached Gilliam and Jones with his idea two years ago and, after some hesitation, they agreed to allow the show to go ahead.

"They realised we were not trying to copy them but adapting their work," Renoux explained.

"And when they finally saw the outcome they were at once charmed and surprised."

Members of the original Monty Python team
Original Pythons Gilliam (top left) and Jones (bottom left) were happy with the show

Gilliam has seen the show three times, Jones once and Michael Palin has also been along.

Other celebrated Python ingredients in the show include The Lumberjack Song and The Sperm Song. It also takes elements from the Python films.

And for the first time, the troupe will be doing their version of the Dead Parrot sketch. "I am very proud," Renoux added.

Renoux felt it was important to bring balance and inclusivity to his production. He got permission to include a woman and a black actor - who will not be in Edinburgh - in a change to the original all-white, all-male permanent line-up.

"Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones said that if they were remaking Python today they would have a balanced cast and one that represented the universality of Monty Python," Renoux said.

Original and best

His show has been a big hit with French audiences since it opened in Paris in October 2002.

And, it is precisely that universality - contained in the Monty Python comedy - that makes it a favourite the world over, Renoux commented.

"They have created a system of humour that translates into every language.

"Some of the sketches are very British but there is a lot of variety so you always find those which correspond to a particular culture."

The French particularly enjoy sketches with a lot of drama, such as argument scenes, said Renoux. His own particular favourite is that of the policemen with silly voices.

Monty Python is still a regular fixture on French TV where the series and films are often repeated. And, Renoux says, French comedy shows just cannot compare.

"There are those who try to act like Monty Python. But the originals were the first to use a form of uncontrolled freedom that has since been used in each country and culture. The Monty Python phenomenon was unique."

Monty Python's Flying Circus will run for nine performances at Edinburgh's Pleasance One from 2 August.


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