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A CurtainUp London London Review
No Naughty Bits

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Improve on the classic nude by colouring in her fun bags! — Terry
No Naughty Bits
Issy van Randwyck as Franklin, John Guerrasio as Fried and Joseph May as Myers (Photo: Manuel Harlan)
The opening of Steve Thompsonís new play No Naughty Bits is a homage to the glorious days of the very silly BBC television show Monty Pythonís Flying Circus which inspired the West End and Broadway hit Spamalot. Present is the giant foot and the squelching noise as it crushes people underfoot but there is also a disclaimer that this show is not about two members of the Python teamís legal expedition to America in 1975 against the might of the television network ABC. Interesting disclaimer!

Ed Hall directs Steve Thompsonís new comedy about Michael, not Palin we have been assured, (Harry Hadden-Paton) and Terry, similarly not Gilliam, (Sam Alexander) suing ABC for cuts made in their comedy series without their consent. The story of what was censored is almost as anarchic a romp as the original Pythonic television series.

Charity Wakefield plays Nancy, the American "fixer" who approaches Michael in London with the proposal that they should challenge the American networkís alteration of their writing. The elimination of the "naughty bits" makes a nonsense of much of the humour which is the best joke. Issy van Randwyck plays to perfection Franklin, the po- faced, unamused but ballsy, ABC executive with the sense of humour failure. How she keeps a straight face throughout, I do not know! She must have had lessons from Queen Victoria.

Clive Rowe is brought on board as the heavyweight US attorney for the Python team and the actual court hearing is presided over by Matthew Marsh as a whimsical Judge Lasker, whose random comments take us off in all kinds of delightful directions. Just as the Pythonites are priding themselves that their attorney Osterberg has watched every episode or every series, he explains that this was in the last 24 hours - a labour not of love but of professionalism. Franklin calls their comedy "Frat humour" and after the ABC representative has said, "People in Idaho will watch this!" Terry questions, "They donít have genitals in Idaho?"

Act One closes with the highly camp Python version of a secret love story between two Air Force men in wartime to the music of 633 Squadron or one of those films about flying. The BBC is described as a liberal parent in allowing irreverent humour. Clive Roweís attorney has a squeaky nose whenever he rubs it but I wasnít sure why, but it was very funny.

Act Two is a sheer delight because of Judge Laskerís off the wall interjections, "Me with my unhappy face," he says predicting a bad outcome for one of the parties and when the ABC lawyer asserts that they didnít change the scripts but the videos, the judge says "Letís lay off the grumpy sarcasm!"

The performances are all believable, Harry Hadden-Patonís mild mannered Michael and Sam Alexanderís zany Terry with his dislike of his fellow countrymen, the Americans. Ed Hall as always directs with verve and designer Francis OíConnor has created some beautiful Pythonesque visuals. If you like Monty Python humour you will enjoy No Naughty Bits and the interesting conclusion to the court case which I will not divulge here.

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No Naughty Bits
Written by Steve Thompson
Directed by Edward Hall

Starring: Harry Hadden-Paton, Sam Alexander, Charity Wakefield, Matthew Marsh, Issy van Randwyck, Clive Rowe
With: Joseph May, John Guerrasio
Designed by Francis OíConnor
Lighting: Rick Fisher
Composer: Simon Slater
Sound: Matt McKenzie
Running time: Two hours 15 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7722 9301
Booking to 15th October 2011
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 13th September 2011 performance at The Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, London NW3 3EU (Tube: Swiss Cottage)

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