Michael Palin packed his cases and took to the road once again earlier in September 2014 for the start of his Travelling To Work tour, taking him everywhere from the exotic sights of Crawley to the Bedouin fires of Southend… OK, so it’s a million miles away from the epic journeys he’s made in the past, but having been lucky enough to catch the show at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall, we know it’s one that fans have loved.
Being the most endearing man on the face of the planet, he’s quick to win you over when he saunters onstage, despite happily confirming that what you’re signed up for is an hour’s worth of holiday snaps from the 1980 and 90s, followed by a short intermission before closing out on what is fundamentally a slide deck on his early career in comedy. It’s not everyone that can be so brazen about their nondescript intentions, but where Palin is concerned we’d happy sit and listen to him waffling on about Turner’s brushwork.
As it happens, the subject matter is actually a whole lot more interesting than his self deprecating description would have you believe, but then for anyone that’s got even the vaguest awareness of Michael Palin’s mad-cap travel shows or his work with Monty Python’s Flying Circus you’ll probably be as keen as we were as soon as we heard about the tour. Added to that is the wave upon wave of wry humour that he has a way of effortlessly dolling out like spam fritters at a Yorkshire chippie and you’ve got a cracking night.
The first half of the show is made up of a run through of some of Michael’s favourite moments and behind the scenes shots from the epic journeys he made for BBC television for shows like Around The World In 80 Days in 1989, Pole To Pole in 1992 and Full Circle 1997. The images cover everything from camel treks in the Sahara desert and floating markets in Kashmir to a stop-off on the Khyber Pass and the treacherous ascent to the snow capped and craggy K2, the second tallest mountain in the world (and apparently the biggest killer too).
It felt like a rare opportunity to hear the comedian’s take on his travels during the time and while there’s a lot of humour at the centre of it all, there’s also a little more serious subject matter as he talks through images of places that no longer exist and others that you simply couldn’t go to anymore. Highlights for us included his story about getting his lines wrong at the south pole, not being allowed into the Reform Club at the end of Around The World In Eighty Days and the shot of him trying to drive while his cameraman is sat on the front bonnet of the vehicle pretty much obscuring all views of the path.
The second half of the show see Michael giving us a whistle stop tour of the whirlwing success of his meteoric rise to comedy stardom. Taking us from his childhood growing up in Yorkshire being influenced by the comedy might of The Goon Show and his teenage romantic holiday escapades with his now wife right the way through to his beginnings with the Python team and the secrets behind their big screen success with movies like The Life Of Brian – which was part funded by George Harrison, who apparently just wanted to see the movie after the previous backers pulled out – it’s just as much of a great journey to go on with Palin as those in the first half of the show.
There’s even a sneak peak of early footage of him and John Cleese messing around together in a park in the very early days of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It’s yet another great moment in the night, showing how close they all were and the sheer warmth and fondness that he has for rest of the members, despite being referred to as a bit of a blabber mouth.
There was also a very cool animated intro to the Travelling To Work show, which works incredibly well at reminded the audience instantly about both his globe trotting past and comedy heritage. It’s short, but we liked it a lot, so we’ve added it below for you to watch for yourself. You can also find out more about the rest of the tour with our Michael Palin 2014 tour details page.
Michael Palin Travelling To Work tour review: 4.2/5