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Monty Python team begin swansong shows

The five remaining members of Monty Python start the first of their final ten performances at London's O2 Arena.

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There were, predictably, dead parrots, silly walks and that very famous song about being a lumberjack and being OK -  but there were no surprises from the reunited Monty Python crew in their first London show on Tuesday. 

The reunited comedy troupe brought back to life all the classics at the first of their 10 Monty Python Live (Mostly) shows and early reviews are that an airing of the old favourites hit the mark for fans.

All five remaining members of the famous comedy troupe - John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones - were back together on stage for the first time since 1980. Graham Chapman, who died in 1989, appeared briefly in a cartoon at the beginning of the show, getting his head kicked into space. 

From left: Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Terry Jones on stage during the opening night of <i>Monty Python Live (Mostly)</i>.

From left: Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Terry Jones on stage during the opening night of Monty Python Live (Mostly). Photo: Getty Images

Classics such as the Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and skits such as Nudge, Nudge and the Spanish Inquisition were wheeled out in what one critic called ‘‘the comedy equivalent of seeing the Beatles play a greatest hits gig.’’

Reviewers were united in noting that there was little in the way of new material but, as crowd-pleasers go, it was a hit. Stephen Fry made a brief cameo, and the action was interspersed with a 20-strong song and dance crew and various video clips, but the long-standing classics were what drew the audience. 

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw give it three stars and said although the sketches are old ‘‘you’d have to have a heart of stone not to enjoy hearing them again’’.

Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and John Cleese perform on the opening night of <i>Monty Python Live (Mostly)</i>. Click for more photos

Monty Python Live (Mostly) show opening night in London

Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and John Cleese perform on the opening night of Monty Python Live (Mostly). Photo: Getty Images

‘‘Everyone wants the Pythons to do the classic stuff and so they did. If Abba reformed, nobody would expect them to avoid Dancing Queen,’’ he wrote. He added it gave the crowd exactly what they wanted ‘‘but relies pretty heavily on the fan love and makes a hefty withdrawal from the reputation bank’’.

Dominic Cavendish from the British Telegraph rated it four stars and said, aside from a hoarse John Cleese and Terry Jones’s use of cue cards, it fulfilled its obligations to an awestruck crowd. ‘‘The Pythons came, they doddered, but they conquered,’’ he wrote. 

Chortle’s Steve Bennett said although there were moments that shone, it failed to conjure up any fresh magic. ‘‘The show does the least of what’s expected of it, but rarely even tries to offer more, which is a shame.’’

The toughest review of all came from the Independent’s John Walsh, slamming it with two stars. "This is a desperately lazy production, resting on its laurels, uninterested in showcasing new material, relying on TV footage and the whooping adulation of an audience who know all the words.’"

The $8.2 million show runs for another nine nights at London’s O2 Arena.