Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Review: Michael Palin, Whitla Hall

Other talks just Palin comparison

One of the great pleasures of Freeview is idly surfing through channels and finding gems such as Michael Palin on BBC4 this week negotiating the rapids of the Peruvian Urubamba River, like a reluctant explorer discovering ‘Abroad’.

But what was interesting about Michael Palin's autobiographical show last night at a packed Whitla Hall was that travel hardly figured at all, even though geography got a look-in.

It was as if this self-deprecating yet brilliant man was reminding us all, in a very English off-the-cuff way, of his career in films, theatre, writing, humour and, of course, the show that ushered in alternative comedy, Monty Python.

Almost casually, Mr Palin began with a bit of his diary, recalling a Tristram Shandyesque exchange with his mother about the details of his conception.

Someone behind me muttered “Oh dear”, but she needn't have worried. We learned that his mother noticed during the romantic encounter everything that was on top of the cupboards. Apparently, Alan Bennett, fellow northerner, has a theory that May babies, and he and Michael Palin both qualify, are the result of the baby boom that always followed the August Bank Holiday.

Afterwards, we followed the fascinating timeline of what you had to call the Life of Michael.

He delivered the Hendon sketch, featuring Ronnie Corbett and John Cleese, brilliantly so that you got a sense of the lower middle-class suburb just from the writing, even if you didn't know the geography.

We got some of Graham Chapman's autobiography, and a superb reminder of his and Terry Jones's capacity for parody in Dr Fegg's Encyclopaedia with its sub-Enid Blyton chapters.

The talks programme this year, with a couple of notable exceptions, has been very Radio 4 — which isn't a bad thing, just occasionally a tad self-congratulatory. But the man who has a link with Northern Ireland going back to the 1980s and who has set up drama bursaries in memory of his friend Michael Barnes, former Belfast Festival director, was an affable comic genius.


COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting?

Nightlife Galleries


Latest Entertainment News

Latest Music News

Latest Film & TV News

Latest Eating Out News


Your Horoscopes by Russell Grant


Beware of spending beyond your means. Sticking to a budget will help you survive the festive season relatively unscathed. It will be easier than you think to let your grip on the purse strings slip especially as the big day draws near. Let Christmas be about loving, sharing and giving. Spend quality time preparing food, making decorations and playing games together. If you haven't sent all your cards or round robin emails give some thought about what you will be sharing with others this year.More