Image shows from L to R: Chris Polick, Matt Addis, James Lance.

Pythonesque

BBC Radio 4 comedy drama. 1 episode in 2010. Stars Chris Polick, Mark Oosterveen, Matt Addis and James Lance.

Press Clippings

Comic radicalism was the theme of Roy Smiles' Pythonesque, which swung between melancholy and hyperactivity in its homage to Monty Python. His focus was Graham Chapman (Chris Polick), whose Lady Gaga-style willingness to experiment with costume ("Does my dress go with the pipe?" he once asked) was a cover for his struggle with shyness, alcoholism and the pressures of co-writing the cult seventies TV comedy. His writing partner John Cleese (Mark Oosterveen sounding very like the beanpole performer) emitted tenderness and exasperation. The mix of scenes of realism with those in the satire-meets-panto style of the Pythons worked very well.

Moira Petty, The Stage, 20th September 2010

You're on a hiding to nothing dramatising the Monty Python story: try as you might, you're never going to be as funny as your subject. Undeterred, Roy Smiles undertook the challenge in Pythonesque, which centred on Graham Chapman's battle with booze and his early death from cancer, told in the style of those overarching comedy gods.

Written for last year's Edinburgh Festival, it probably worked better on stage, and the tone of over-egged jocularity grated somewhat. Devices such as having Eric Idle, in full "Wink-wink nudge-nudge" mode, audition Chapman and John Cleese for the Footlights were simply irritating.

For all the pastiches, even the ones that worked, it was Chapman's sombre closing speech that was truly memorable: "I was proud to be gay, proud to conquer my alcoholism, proud to be a Python, proud to write with John Cleese, and proud to play the lead in two of the funniest movies of all time. I enjoyed a full life and I was loved by many. What more can a man ask?"

Chris Maume, The Independent, 19th September 2010

You have to be a Monty Python fan, you just have to. What this play suggests is that the group stopped even thinking of working together once Graham Chapman died. It's replete with Pythonesque descriptions; there's no effort to introduce characters subtly, they're straight in giving you their life story or possibly an entire series of illuminating lies in silly voices. And it's chock-full of famous sketches, buckled a little to tell a less famous tale. Pythonesque, written for radio by the appropriately named Roy Smiles, is really the story of Chapman and his drinking, his drug use, and his impact within this special group. The moments of pathos in it are like bullets through the comedy, which is otherwise such a barrage of schoolboy daftness that you have to be a fan to enjoy it.

William Gallagher, Radio Times, 15th September 2010

This is a clumsy and tedious play. Its writer, Roy Smiles, has made cardboard characters even though they are drawn from life and, with the exception of the central figure, Graham Chapman, still living. To understand it at all you have to be someone who can recite whole sketches from Monty Python's Flying Circus (the dead parrot, the funny walks, e.g.). My mind boggled when I listened to the preview disc but I draw it to your attention as a piece which (a) shows how hard it is to write well for radio and (b) demonstrates the abiding power of great television.

Gillian Reynolds, The Telegraph, 15th September 2010