London (AFP) - The return of Monty Python received largely kind reviews from British newspapers on Wednesday, which said the ageing comedians' comeback kept devotees looking on the bright side even if it might not win new fans.
After the first night of "Monty Python Live (Mostly)" at the O2 arena in London, the press could not resist a few digs at the advanced years of John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Terry Jones, who are now all in their seventies.
While many reviewers said the troupe's first live show for more than 30 years lacked new material, most broadly agreed with the Telegraph's four-star review that the Pythons "came, they doddered, but they conquered".
In a sign of their broad appeal, there were reviews across the spectrum of British newspapers from Rupert Murdoch's bestselling tabloid The Sun to the highbrow Financial Times.
The Guardian awarded the show three stars out of five and said it "isn't bad: it gives the crowd exactly what they want but relies pretty heavily on the fan love."
"This live show won't make any converts. But it sends the faithful away happy."
The Times also gave the show three stars and took a similar line, saying: "Will these two and a half hours convert any non-believers to the Python cause? They will not.
"Yet there are plenty of laughs here -- sure, laughs of recognition rather than laughs of surprise, but genuine laughs all the same."
- 'Clever and immature' -
The Pythons were credited with creating a new type of comedy with their brilliantly absurd TV show "Flying Circus" in the 1960s and 1970s and in the later hit films "Life of Brian" and "Holy Grail".
Tickets for the opening night, the first of a 10-night residency, sold out within 44 seconds and the 14,000-strong crowd applauded favourite sketches and joined a mass sing-along at the end to the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."
But several papers mentioned the long musical and dance numbers that kept the five surviving Pythons -- Graham Chapman died of cancer in 1990 -- off stage for a substantial part of the show.
The Independent had the harshest review, giving it two stars out of five for a "desperately lazy production."
The Financial Times awarded the show three stars, saying: "This show is a very smart piece of work. It seems to have been put together to maximise the impression of value for money while minimising the quintet's amount of stage performance."
The Daily Mail also gave it three stars, saying that "quite often, they looked and sounded like a dodgy tribute band."
"But the show finally reached something worthy of the hype and the high prices (some tickets on the black market were going for close to Â£200) when they gave us such old favourites as the Spam sketch, the dead parrot sketch and best of all 'I Want An Argument," it added.
Some audience members could be seen crying with laughter as Palin and Cleese performed their legendary dead parrot sketch, in which Cleese tries to return the bird to the pet shop insisting that it "is no more".
Several papers, however, drew attention to Cleese's very croaky voice -- and his large belly.
The Express gave five out of five and said that the "the comedy timing is still there", but it pointed out that "rampant homophobia" could still be detected in some sketches
In The Sun, British comedian Russell Kane reviewed the show, saying it was "both clever and immature, just like the Pythons back in the day."