Writer: Michael Palin
Reviewer: Audrey Pointer
Palin is Yorkshire’s own Python, a Sheffield lad who, along with the other talented members of the Monty Python team, created a cosmos of comedy that was original, anarchic and surreal, or what might now be called “a bit random”. Post-Python, Michael reinvented himself as a TV travel presenter and writer, becoming, in effect, a more jovial version of a figure parodied by Python, Alan Whicker. In fact, Whicker declined the BBC’s offer to do Around the World in 80 Days, the programme that started Michael on his life of globetrotting.
Palin is on the road again to publicise the third volume of his diaries, Travelling to Work. Now longer than the diaries of many significant political figures, each covers about a decade of Michael’s adult life in substantial detail. The third book deals with his work as a professional traveller – hence the title – but also covers the many other projects Michael was involved in from 1988 to 1998.
The show is in two parts, the first focusing more on the book – with Michael taking the opportunity to mention that it is on sale in the foyer – and the second part dealing with his love for – and his own contributions to – the world of comedy.
A large screen at the back of the stage allows Michael to show key photos from his travels, many of which are very amusing, especially when Michael adds context and additional details. The screen is also used to show film clips, including a never-before-seen clip of a young Palin horsing around on the grass with a young Terry Jones and a young John Cleese. However, the sound for most of the clips was uncomfortably loud and one-sided, presumably directed only to those sitting centrally in the auditorium rather than the whole audience.
However, that aside, Palin is wonderfully warm and funny. He connects with the audience from the start and has very good presentational skills, comic timing and stage presence. The show is made up of several elements, including narration, short and extended sections from books, script readings and improvised comedy routines. Towards the end of the evening, Michael faces questions written on slips of paper by members of the audience. Clearly, the success or failure of this section depends on the questions posed, but Michael is skilled enough to stimulate laughter even when the queries seem unpromising.
Palin has managed to pull off something rare, having become one of the world’s greatest comedians, one of its best-known travellers and also one of the most prolific diarists. He is also a very talented raconteur with a plethora of interesting and amusing anecdotes from around the globe. On top of that and despite the fact that comedians are renowned for having a dark side, Michael comes across as a thoroughly pleasant human being.
Reviewed on: 28th September 2014