John Cleese Alimony Tour, Corn Exchange, Cambridge

By Julian Hall
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The Independent Culture

Don't call it a comeback. Forced to sell numerous residences thanks to a divorce settlement with ex-wife Alyce Faye Eichelberger, Monty Python and Fawlty Towers legend John Cleese, 71, is on the road in an effort to pay what remains of the £12.3m he owes to a woman he describes as a cross between "Bluebeard and Heather Mills".

Without plumbing the depths of bitterness Cleese, who entered on to the stage tonight to the music of Monty Python's Flying Circus and to warm applause and cheers, enjoys toying with his ex and shows how he virtually paid her over $3,500 a day to be his wife in the 16 years they were together from 1992.

With his own public enemy number one compounded, the canter through his life and times begins, delivered in a warm, if not totally engaging, documentary style. Born to "poor but honest parents – the worst possible combination", a paunchy Cleese explains to us that his upbringing, in what is depicted as the middle-class backwater of Weston-super-Mare, helped him become a comedian and inspired Fawlty Towers.

No doubt this early section was of particular interest to Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare, who was in attendance tonight, but what the majority of the audience were anticipating was a debriefing on the Python years. In truth, they could argue they were a little short-changed, notwithstanding a sweetly recounted conversation about whether a goat or a sheep was the best animal for a visual gag.

Fans of Fawlty Towers however were in for a treat with numerous clips and a recap on the genesis of Basil Fawlty, a now deceased hotelier called Donald Sinclair. While the nostalgia is fun, Cleese is cleverly unsentimental about his career since the film A Fish Called Wanda and observes that his subsequent work could be summed up in two minutes and then a video-clip montage is played that does exactly that.

The live shows planned between now and the end of June may not have the kudos of the Hollywood Bowl where Cleese and his fellow Pythons once played, but that was 30 years ago now and, with so few live performances in between time, one wonders if Cleese's former spouse has done his fans a favour. Would he have made this live foray without her?

Touring to 23 June