Not the Messiah – Three’s Company
1st – 24th August, 1pm
For their 7th year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Three’s Company brings us Not The Messiah; a fascinating, amusing yet emotional snapshot of the life of Graham Chapman, the only non-surviving member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
The role of Chapman is played by George Telfer, whose extensive repertoire of one man shows shines through in Not The Messiah; he switches through a spectrum of characters, all of whom influenced Chapman’s life. There is an element of meta-theatre to the show; Telfer plays Chapman, who then plays John Cleese, his father, significantly a policeman, and countless others. Telfer’s acting skill is outstanding, the way he conveys these varying personalities essentially creates the comedic aspect to the show, as well as embellishing the story. Telfer conveys the emotions and relationships between Chapman and these characters exceptionally well; his expression is spot on.
The set and props used are remarkably simple, yet creative. A hospital curtain became multipurpose, and the use of a phone is very significant. The show is a narrative framed by two telephone calls with Chapman’s partner David. The latter brings about a very natural conclusion; we all feel that sense of an impending ending, except for, it seems, the person on the other side of the line. After nigh on an hour getting to know the life and character of Chapman, the audience feels a sense of empathy towards him, and the inevitable end becomes quite the tearjerker.
The performance takes place in a portakabin off the Courtyard site, Pleasance This. Despite looking like little more than a toilet block from the outside, it’s a delightfully intimate space seating just over 50 people. This is a perfect setting for Not the Messiah; exploring Chapman’s struggle with alcoholism and homophobia with such a small audience seems innately natural, meaningful and personal.
Although the performance has a serious and emotional story, Three’s Company pay homage to Python itself by interspersing the narrative with absurd and downright silly humour. Though being a Python fan isn’t prerequisite to enjoy Not The Messiah, the writers have really hit the nail on the head with the accessibility of the show. Some awareness of the concept would probably help, but the powerful storytelling can enthral even a Python novice.
The team behind Not The Messiah, Three’s Company, was formed in 2000 by Tom Crawshaw, Yaz Al-Shaater and Michael Grady-Hall. The trio have had great success both nationally and specifically to the Fringe. Six years in a row they’ve received a wave of 5-star feedback for shows such as Play on Words and The World’s Greatest Walking Tour of Edinburgh. Not the Messiah has been no exception, and is definitely a must see at this year’s festival.
by Francesca Lawson