Middlesbrough, Michael Palin once claimed, was a place that had remained univisted in his many travels. Last night that situation was rectified. And seemingly he rather liked it (or at least didn’t break into outright shrinking disgust).
Middlesbrough Towm Hall was pretty much full (of people of a certain age it must be said). Perhaps, he mused, all the younger folk had decided to forego him for the Peace gig at the neighbouring Empire.
I will admit to MP being a bit of a hero of mine. When I launched my abortive teenage bid to assault the bastions of Oxbridge privilege, Brasenose College Oxford was the one I chose, purely on the grounds that it was Palin’s alma mater. and when Peter Ustinov passed away, I submitted a nomination for Palin to be chancellor of Durham University, on the grounds that he was a man of the world (not in the Nudge, Nudge sense, but in the internationalist one). So seeing him alone, after seeing the Pythons last year, seemed an obvious thing to do.
Most of Palin’s schtick, if one can call it that, seems grounded in the idea of him being the ‘nice’ Python, and certainly the one who is most diffident and self-effacing. If anything, this show seems to reinforce that image. There are lots of great stories, some about Python, some of his travels, but all delivered in the beautifully low-key style of a man who really can’t believe his luck that he’s made a living getting paid for things he loved doung, and that he’s got away with it for so long. A key theme always seems to be the self-doubt that, at the start of most projects, anything he does will ever work, matched only by the surprise that it did, and the wonder at how bad he is at predicting it.
The stories are interspersed with clips, taking in early Python, through the movies, Ripping Yarns (time to break out that DVD again, methinks) and memories of worling George Harrison, Spike Milligan and Kevin Kiline among others, as well as being pranked by Cleese while filming in Finland. He is rightly proud of other work, such as his role in GBH, his film American Friends amd his recent role in Remember Me (which comes up in the brief Q&A at the end of the evening).
In fact, when you look back, the 71 year old Palin has had a wide and varied career, but its all related in such a beautifully unprepossessing way that’s its not until you’ve got to the end of proceedings that you realise what a talent he really is, and what a body of work he has
It was a wonderful night: funny, thoughtful and in keeping with the man. I didn’t really want to drag the “National Treasure” cliche out here but, well, he is.