A Very Naughty Boy

Adrian Poynton
Soho Theatre
(2004)

A picture from A Very Naughty Boy

This Fringe First Winner from last year combines the sad life of Graham Chapman with some adapted sketches from the cult television show Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Graham Chapman, played by the writer, got close to becoming a doctor before deciding that the chance to become a touring actor was too good to miss. He had already starred in the Cambridge Footlights and there met began his love-hate relationship with John Cleese.

The writing partnership sounds hellish, as Chapman has flashes of inspiration while the manic control freak, Cleese, several inches too short in Tom Price's shoes, writes frantically to cover the gaps.

Chapman was not designed for this life. He was embarrassed not only by his homosexuality but also by appearing on stage. This was clearly a problem and led him to gin and vodka, often hidden on sets in large quantities .

As a result the films foundered. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was an acting disaster while Life of Brian almost didn't get written.

Amazingly, Chapman gave up drinking overnight but perhaps lost that spark of genius that is given to so few when he did so. All too soon, he suffered an early death.

A Very Naughty Boy is a rather sentimental depiction of a minor celebrity. It relies too much on Monty Python for its comedy although on occasions, this is very funny. Its focus on Chapman makes it clear that while he was a tragic man, his sidekick Cleese might well have proved a far more interesting subject for a play and Mr Poynton might like to consider him next.

This is a play that will appeal most to fans of the Flying Circus who will wallow in nostalgia, have some laughs and might even shed a few tears.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher