Words By: Jack Dawson
Image Credit: Wealthy Theatre
I’ve been keeping an eye on Monkey Collective for a while now, and every event that I’ve gone too which has been organized by them has been an excellent one. They’re primarily a Theatre group who specialize in FX, prosthetics and Robots, but they also organize interactive movie events at Luna Cinemas at regular intervals. Their most recent one was Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and it might have been the best one yet.
Darkness grips the land of England, ignorance, disease and a fundamental bloody mindedness about the right to rule that makes the dinner table very awkward. And so King Arthur, King of all the Britons (even the ones who didn’t vote for him) gathers a group of Knights to undertake a Holy Quest, to find and recover the Holy Grail.
But since this is Monty Python telling the story, things get weird fast.
To begin with, this was a very well-attended event. When I went to see Monkey Collective’s showing of The Big Lebowski, most everyone was packed into the bar before the movie started, which left the foyer looking empty. The bar was still packed this time, but so was the Foyer. And once again half of the crowd had come dressed to impressed, including a Killer Rabbit (whose ear-splitting shrieks were a less than welcome if authentic touch), Dennis (who was shovelling muck) several Black Knights (who were in various states of dismemberment), and even some Spanish Inquisitors (which was unexpected). It was a little disappointing to see no themed snacks or merchandise being sold, though it’s possible that I may have missed them.
And the rules and items were all excellent choices, even if it seemed that there was always someone delivering the dialogue before the characters on screen were.
As for the move itself, it’s probably about as brilliant as you remember. In an interview with Michael Parker, John Cleese once expressed his surprise that most people seemed to prefer Holy Grail over Life of Brian, since he personally found Life of Brian to be the more intelligent and thus more funny film. In a strange way I agree with him, Life of Brian is objectively the better film. It’s better paced, the commentary is less heavy handed, and the production values are significantly improved.
And yet I might actually like Holy Grail more.
Perhaps it’s because it has a distinct visual style that actually benefits from the low budget, a particular speciality of co-director Terry Gilliam. Perhaps it’s because the targets of ridicule range from English folklore to Christianity, which rather appeals to me personally. Or maybe it’s because despite it’s uneven nature, the high points of Holy Grail outshine anything else in the Monty Python canon.
Subverting a typical encounter between the Heroes and a dreadful monster by making the dreadful monster something unassuming is funny. Taking ‘something unassuming’ to mean ‘a bunny rabbit’ is hilarious. The Bunny remaining just as deadly as a full sized monster is side splitting. And representing this monstrous creature with an obviously fake facsimile which tears apart its victims by gently brushing against them is so strange that your only resort is to laugh.
Weirdly a high production value kind of hurts the Python experience. Their best sketches and stories always seemed to take place in some kind of nightmarish absurd alternate reality, and it helps the tone of the story immensely. We might be watching a film made on the cheap, but then it’s about a group of gormless twits who are on a mighty quest which was manufactured and undertaken on the cheap. The towns don’t look functional, but then it is actually a plot point that the towns aren’t habitable. Much as there are more misses than hits in the jokes department and frequent lolls in the story, the visual style compliments the jokes perfectly and the jokes aren’t afraid to truly risk it all in the sake of making its audience laugh.
Beyond that, it feels pointless to talk about Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it is already justly celebrated the world over. It’s one of the greatest comedies of all time, and if you haven’t seen it by now, you absolutely need to.
And likewise, if you’ve never been to any of Monkey Collective’s events, I strongly recommend to you Monkey Collective’s Life of Brian (26th of April) and Monkey Collective’s Back to the Future (24th of May)!