Review: John Cleese – The Alimony Tour **

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At Leeds Grand Theatre

Do you know the trouble with John Cleese? The trouble with John Cleese is that we actually don’t like John Cleese that much.

We liked the chap from the ministry of silly walks, we loved Basil Fawlty and had a brief laugh at that Russian-speaking, clothes-stripping barrister in A Fish Called Wanda.

But John Cleese? Take him or leave him.

It’s not that he doesn’t come across as a thoroughly decent chap, it’s just that you need something more if you’re to do a one-man show to a packed theatre.

What’s missing here? Well, what’s missing is a lot of the physical element that made his previous incarnations, be it in TV or movies, such a hoot.

With that stick-like body, limbs flailing in all directions, Cleese was a scream. But now we are presented by a rather more stocky old man who remains stationary other than moving off-stage to show the occasional film clip.

Also absent is any kind of natural delivery, instead the 71-year-old reads from an autocue at the back of the theatre, another is placed just to the right of the stage so that a substantial amount of the audience can actually see the punchlines to jokes he’s yet to deliver.

Omitted too seems to be the last 30 or so minutes of the show which, when you’ve paid £30 or more for a ticket, is more than a little galling.

There was an obvious sense of disappointment among the packed audience, clearly made up of lifelong fans, when the curtain went up at 7.30pm, then down at 9.15pm – and that included an interval.

The content itself isn’t exactly new or exhilarating stuff. Sure, it produces the odd titter here and there, but in the main the response feels like polite laughter.

The truth is that by reading a scripted, potted version of his humorous life, the effect is simply one of listening to a 90-minute audio tape of his autobiography which, if reports are to be believed, is soon to be released to rake in more money.

And that’s the constant reminder with the uncryptically titled Alimony Tour – we are helping to pay for a £12m divorce from his ex-wife Alyce Faye Eichelberger.

Which we wouldn’t mind so much if we were handing over our cash in return for something more worthwhile than this.

Rod McPhee

INSPIRATION: The Yorkshire Rows at Mamma Mia in Leeds with the cast.

Yorkshire rowers had a dream