John Cleese has received some awful reviews for this Alimony Tour - mainly because the man himself admits he is performing to "feed the beast." In other words, he is paying alimony to his ex wife Alyce-Faye Eichelberger. After a jokey, bittersweet beginning, whereby he likens her lawyer to an Orc, the show settles down as Cleese takes the audience on a journey through his career, Weston-Super-Mare and his difficult relationship with his mother.
The man with the 'silly walk' has not lost none of his dead pan wit and many of the lines are delivered to perfection in the early part of the show. He knows that the audience have come to see the star and writer of Monty Python, and A Fish Called Wanda and Fawlty Towers, so to keep the gig going - well known clips of these elements of his comedy past are juxtaposed into the cosy and often very witty annecdotes.
Now, I say annecdotes but there are two autocues. Thankfully Cleese has enough skill to use these as prompters, rather than read everything out word-for-word. Memorable moments include a tribute to the late Graham Chapman and his mother's ability to seem 'surprised' that she is down and his ability to liven her up via black comedy, which she adored.
There is also a section in the show, where John talks about how important the audience is. One fan gives him a question which leads to a spontaneous element within the evening and the audience seem delighted. Sadly though, there are not enough moments like this one. The effect is televisual and there are moments when I feel I have stepped into a TV Studio to see An Audience With.....
We all know why Mr Cleese is touring as it says so on the tin and he gives you a fun, nice and very safe evening's entertainment. But the concept would benefit from a Q&A section and more audience interaction and passion from the host. When a fan attempts to shake his hand and he is ignored, you are reminded again that this is the Alimony Tour. But, surely the warmth that is conveyed throughout several of the stories could flow more freely to the fans themselves? They have paid up to £37.50.
If John could let his hair down a bit more and involve his fans, this could be so much more than a 'nice' night out and become a cracking one. As it stands, it's a real curate's egg - good in parts and 'powerpoint presentation' in others. The man himself remains very funny, but he needs to engage with the people who have paid to see him for it to become more than 'pleasant.'