By S Mulvihill
George Telfer embodies the spirit of Graham Chapman completely in this one man show which tracks Chapman’s life from university, through the drink-soaked Python years to his death in 1989. Presented against the backdrop of a hospital room, an excellent choice both because the piece is told from the point of view of Chapman reminiscing over his life as he is dying from throat cancer and because it ties in his medical background, Telfer flits between some of the Python’s best known characters, including Arthur King of the Britons and the policeman, as well as throwing in admirable impersonations of Chapman’s colleagues and friends. At times touching and funny, this play, written by Tom Cranshaw, conjures up the essence of the Monty Python team in an intimate early afternoon setting.
An hour isn’t a long time to be telling the complete story of a life, but Not The Messiah manages to emphasise the pertinent moments without feeling like it skimps on the detail. Documenting Chapman’s alcoholism, ramshackle rock and roll friendships and gay rights activism we are presented with a very complete sense of who the man was. Using mobile surgical screens to create different staging areas we are given snapshots of different arenas, as they double as theatrical curtains for the various characters to make their entrances and exits through. Indeed, Three’s Company make excellent use of the small space they are given, at times using the aisles and different levels to make the whole seem much bigger than it is. One niggle though, and it seems to be a common problem this year, is that when Telfer sits down those not in the front couple of rows can’t see him. Though there has been an attempt at varying the heights of the seating it’s simply not enough. The delivery means that you still get a lot just from Telfer’s voice, but it is disappointing to miss some of the physical skill he excels in. With the occasional insertion of some of the Monty Python’s music we are never left too far from the distinct comedy of their genre.
If you’re a fan of Monty Python (and let’s face it, nearly everyone is) this show will satisfy your appetite for the absurdist humour the team gave us.