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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
Python's lost play gets world premiere
Graham Chapman
Graham Chapman's play is full of Pythonesque moments
A play written by Monty Python star Graham Chapman is to receive its world premiere at a small Atlanta theatre 11 years after his death.

The farce Oh Happy Day was written by Chapman and comedy writer Barry Cryer in the mid-1970s and was only re-discovered a few years ago by the ex-Python's partner.

It's like discovering a Christmas pantomime written by Oscar Wilde

Jim Yoakum

John Cleese and Michael Palin are working as advisors on the play which is being performed by an American improvisation company, Dad's Garage Theatre.

David Sherlock, Chapman's partner for 20 years, has sent a vial of his ashes to the audition and plans to send more for the opening night on Friday.

Jim Yoakum, director of the Graham Chapman Archives, was given the script by Sherlock and, at first, wanted to stage the play in London or New York.

But he settled on a production in his home town of Atlanta, because of finances, and after he'd seen Dad's Garage perform a Joe Orton farce.

"I was stunned when I read it," Yoakum writes on the Dad's Garage website.

"I mean, here was this incredibly funny script, written by a genius of modern comedy, and not only was it totally unknown - it was a play, not a medium normally associated with Graham."

Python moments

He added: "It's sort of like discovering a Christmas pantomime written by Oscar Wilde or something."

The plot of involves families, weddings, mistaken identities and one character's hidden homosexuality.

There is a bar that plays a different song from the musical Sound of Music as each drink is poured, a 300-pound Australian, and a whole slate of silly walks.

"There are scenes when you just say, `Wow, this is a Python moment that never happened'," artistic director Sean Daniels said.

Michael Palin (left) and Graham Chapman
John Cleese: "Graham had a tenuous relationship with reality"

The play is unfinished and Dad's Garage has been given the freedom to update, edit and change the work.

At one rehearsal, an actor suggested changing a line, and Daniels promised to use a Ouiji board to get Chapman's permission.

"Graham would have just been tickled to know that a bunch of American boys were doing his British farce," John Cleese writes in the programme notes.

"Then again, Graham had a very tenuous relationship with reality," he adds.

Chapman died of throat cancer in 1989.

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