Celebrity interview: ‘The Python team were the old bags and I was the young girl’

Carol appeared in the original Python series and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Carol appeared in the original Python series and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
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Actress Carol Cleveland has spent more than 50 years on stage and screen, appearing in classic series The Avengers, Are You Being Served? and Toast of London. Now she’s penned an autobiography Pom Poms Up!

She’s also reunited with the Monty Python team for their London gigs.

She said: “I’ve never even seen the 02 Arena! I’ve only recently discovered that I’m not going to see it until our first night’s performance, so that’s going to be a bit of a shock. First night is always pretty panicky anyway. I’ll try and take a peek at it so I don’t freak out too much.”

Her book is full of showbiz anecdotes, including one about a controversial episode of The Avengers.

“We had great fun doing that particular episode, The Hellfire Club, and that is the one that was banned at the time. They’ve never shown it in America. Of course you look back at it, and compared to what’s on television these days, it was very mild indeed.

“The scene I was involved with, which involved Peter Wyngarde and me having this little smooch on top of the bed, fully clothed, was deemed too outrageous. We had great fun doing it.”

So, how did she become involved with Monty Python?

“I was only supposed to be in four of the five episodes they’d written in the beginning.

“Not only had I not worked with any of the Pythons, I hadn’t met them. I’d watched some of them on television; I had a vague idea of what to expect, but then of course they sent me the scripts, and the scripts did not include Terry Gilliam’s animation, so the sketches had no end and no beginning.

“So I’m reading these scripts thinking, ‘What? I don’t get it’. I thought it would all become clear when I got to rehearsals. I only got it when we went into the studio for the first time and Terry Gilliam had done his animation – only then did I see how the sketches were going to be linked.”

Was she frustrated about being pigeon-holed?

“They did apologise to me in the beginning. It was Michael (Palin) who came up to me by the time we got to the second or third episode, and they realised I wasn’t just a pretty face. Michael said, ‘I’m so sorry we don’t have more for you to do, Carol. We’re just not very good at writing for women.’ They were the ‘old bags’ and I was the young girl, and that was it.”

Was making Holy Grail difficult?

“It rained nearly every day; the weather was disgusting. Fortunately my scene was indoors.”

PomPoms Up! From Puberty To Python And Beyond is priced £10.99.

PARTNERSHIP: Rob Cowling and Paddy Sturman of Irwin Mitchell with Robin Hawkes of West Yorkshire Playhouse. Photo: Anthony Robling.

Five-year sponsorship deal for Leeds’s £14m West Yorkshire Playhouse redevelopment