INTERVIEW - John Cleese gives theatre-goers a bit of bang for their tickets
By Jamie Hill - 10 March 2020
Arts and Culture
As Bang Bang! a new farce from John Cleese embarks on its first ever UK tour - which comes to Swindon's Wyvern Theatre this month - we catch up with the Python himself to talk about his hilarious adaptation of this classic comedy - a delicious blend of French Farce and Fawlty Towers.
Let’s talk farce – why did you decide to adapt the classic French farce Monsieur Chasse by Georges Feydeau for your stage writing debut?
I’ve always loved farce. When Farce is constructed well and cleverly It is the most perfect thing to watch and I think the French farces of the 1900’s just got this very right! I have said before that Fawlty Towers was like 12 short farces which is why I think they worked so well, but in theatre you have even more scope. There is so much that goes on at one time you can’t pick it up with just one camera, If you try to shoot a wide shot for television it’s too wide, but if you’re sitting in an audience you can see the whole stage and you can see ‘him’ and ‘her’ at the same time and all the interactions and the action without some editor choosing what you’re going to see. Farce in the theatre is, I think, the thing that makes me happiest.
SO what in your mind makes the ultimate farce?
I think the key elements of a farce are the structure of the plot. If I was to give advice to young people who are interested in farce, what I would say is get the story right - before you start writing the dialogue. When Connie (Booth) and I were writing Fawlty Towers, we didn’t write any lines of dialogue for about 2 and a half weeks. We just sat trying to figure out what made the plot work. A lot of writers almost come up with a straight plot and then they have to write lots of a jokes, because the situation itself is not very funny - but if you can write funny situations then writing the dialogue is easy because you just have to act out that situation.
Can you tell us a little bit about your comedy and stage writing process?
Well I lecture on creativity and I’m absolutely convinced that everything that’s really original comes from the unconscious - you don’t have control. This means that you have to understand how the creative process works, you have to get in a state of mind where you can keep focus on what you’re doing - without it being a furrowed-brow, studying-late-into-the-night intensity. Why the people who commission scripts often get it wrong so much, is that they don’t give writers enough time. So they are immediately saying ‘I want something Wednesday week’ and the reality is if you want something Wednesday week I don’t have time to think of anything original. You need to have the space and time for your mind to work through the creative process, naturally to come up with something really original and funny
Why should people come and see Bang Bang!?
Well you know what they say about buying property don’t you, there’s three things… location, location, location. And the only reason, the only reason, anyone should come to Bang Bang! is to laugh, to laugh and to laugh.
Can you sum up the show in one sentence?
No. (Laughs) well… I wrote it!
Bang Bang is on sale in Theatres across the UK now book your tickets for this riotous comedy and visit www.bangbangtour.co.uk and follow #bangbangtouruk for more information
The tour comes to Wyvern Theatre, Swindon Tue 24 – Sat 28 March 2020. To buy tickets call 01793524481 or book online swindontheatres.co.uk