I think that The Pythons are a group of talented and really (at times) very funny individuals, most have whom have done their best work while working together. They all have their individual strengths as writers and performers, and I'd be somewhere near the front of the queue of people waiting to credit them with a major role in revolutionising British comedy (Spike Milligan notwithstanding). Their work from the 1960s through to the 1990s was always bright, irreverent, mildly anarchic and...well, different. They were pioneers initially, subsequently morphing into veterans and masters of their craft(s). I admire their achievements in the full knowledge that they're on a different intellectual and creative level to myself.
....Which is why I find this 'final' stage show a little unsettling. From what I've heard and read about the show, it's almost entirely comprised of vintage material; forty-plus-year-old silliness now performed by septuagenarians to an audience of the converted. It's not really very subversive any more, is it? Time was that depicting a policeman as a closet gay and accepting an offer from a man on the street was shocking and cheeky and 'oh my!'....but now? Well, now, the joke is old - they were among the first (if not THE first) to be so bold in their comedy, and once they broke the seal on such jokes, well...that was that.
Over the years I've enjoyed periodically watching the old TV series: some of the early stuff was actually really terrible, but they went with it, showed some gumption (and boobs) and got away with it as soon as the good stuff started happening. They were brave, they had energy, the work had energy and excitement - mostly because it was new and refreshing. Much of what they did only worked on a screen, and I still regularly treat myself to 'The Holy Grail' or 'The Life of Brian', and I enjoy both movies immensely (I still invoke 'The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch' on a regular basis)and I still count myself as a 'follower', so to speak, but the idea of these old men (let's face it; that's really what they are now) re-hashing some of their earliest, most-repeated and best-known material for a theatre full of admirers seems...well...more than a little cynical - exploitative, even.
I'm not a performer, I'm no kind of authority on entertainment (or anything else, really), but as an entertainment sponge, I must say that I'm disappointed. Monty Python used to be about originality, about subversion, about tweaking the establishment's nose and waiting around until the establishment realised what was happening, and then laughing in their faces. The stage show - again; old material trotted out for the millionth time - despite how funny it may be to see the performers 'corpsing', fluffing their lines or ad-libbing, is not new. It's - and I hate to say this - a cop-out, a sell-out (in more ways than one, apparently), and while I acknowledge the right of these grand old veterans to do what they have (and that a great many people have been excited enough to buy tickets, and subsequently enjoy themselves), I struggle to think of any other comic performers who would fall back on material that first made them famous half a lifetime ago.
They are all talented, wickedly intelligent men, people who have always been quick to speak their mind about any number of subjects, and I have hardly ever found room to disagree with their various pronouncements, but this final flogging of the unwashed masses' wallets seems to me to be a cynical bridge too far. I'm surprised that they are willing to do 'The Dead Parrot', 'The Lumberjack Song' or 'The Four Yorkshiremen' sketches any longer. I thought that they were/are better than that - in fact I am sure that's the case...which only makes it worse, really.