Not the Messiah (He's A Very Naughty Boy), Royal Albert Hall, London


Python worship hard to Handel

And now for something completely different? Well, yes and no; swings and roundabouts, square pegs and round holes, know what I mean, nudge, nudge. Eric Idle and composer John Du Prez have already conquered Broadway and the West End with their stage musical version of Spamalot. But on Friday – to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first Monty Python broadcast – they presented a one-off performance of a piece that is just a smidgen more megalomaniac.

Not the Messiah (He's A Very Naughty Boy) is a comic Handel-spoofing oratorio version of The Life of Brian, the controversial 1979 movie which satirised blind faith and the underhand wiles of Christian zealotry through the fate of the hapless mixed-race Brian Cohen, a nobody who is mistaken for the Messiah, becomes a reluctant revolutionary with the Judean People's Front and winds up nailed to a cross.

The fans (and they packed the place to the rafters) received it rapturously, but then I reckon that they would have blown the roof off even if the surviving team members (excluding John Cleese) had sent along their bow tie-sporting fridges as stand-ins rather than turned up themselves. And who am I (as a selective admirer) to knock the fun enjoyed by the greying faithful (and their remarkably compliant kids). I enjoyed the ravishing silk-bristled texture with which the BBC Symphony Orchestra (in fantastic form, throughout, presumably for a considerable fee) performed "Liberty Bell", the Python theme-tune at the start. And I liked the way Michael Palin (during the encores) unsheathed himself from his drag clobber as Mrs Betty Parkinson to emerge as a fully-formed lumberjack for an (oddly ropey) rendition of that song. Also, dull would he be of soul who failed to experience a bit of a thrill when the entire audience waved their candles in time to cheery old "Bright Side of Life".

So how did I feel the rest of the time? Sick as a dead parrot? No; lonely mostly and a little mystified. The essential difference between the mediocrity of Not the Messiah and the fitful genuinely hilarity of the stage Spamalot is that Idle and Du Prez understand the genre of musical comedy and so can have spirited fun mixing Holy Grail and Broadway-reaching ambitions. But while they may appreciate the concert hall protocols of oratorio, they don't comprehend its deep conventions. And in any case, what would satire in this area be subverting? Life of Brian is an attack on mindless worship, not the faith itself. I take no joy in saying that this immense event reminded me of nothing so much as Florence Foster Jenkins, the notoriously tone-deaf American socialite who used to hire the Carnegie Hall at her own expense for her vanity caterwaulings.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk