ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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A meaning of life

Resilience via absurdity: Israeli orchestra launches Monty Python show

Revolution Orchestra’s 90-minute ‘The Passion of Monty Python’ is ode to the 70s-era British comedy troupe

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Zohar Sharon (left) and Roi Oppenheim of The Revolution Orchestra, in a new Monty Python show that opened February 11, 2024 (Courtesy Moshe Chitayat)
Zohar Sharon (left) and Roi Oppenheim of The Revolution Orchestra, in a new Monty Python show that opened February 11, 2024 (Courtesy Moshe Chitayat)

The always unusual Revolution Orchestra, which mixes orchestral music with other performing arts, opened its seventh season Sunday with its latest creation, “The Passion of Monty Python,” a show dedicated to the work of the British comedy troupe.

The first performance took place at the orchestra’s home base, the Israeli Opera house in Tel Aviv, on February 11, with performances scheduled through July in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Herzliya.

The 90-minute show has been in the works for more than a year, said composer Zohar Sharon, who worked closely on it with his Revolution Orchestra partner and conductor Roi Oppenheim, as well as several others.

This show features the orchestra’s familiar mix of music, video and stage work to reveal the humor and absurdity of Monty Python, the 1970s-era team known for breaking the rules of comedy and creating new standards for nonsense and absurdity.

With the orchestra conducted by Oppenheim, the show includes actor Ben Perry of the Tziporela troupe, along with the Moran Singers Ensemble, with staging by Itay Zvulun and Oppenheim.

Sharon and Oppenheim included animated videos and clips from Monty Python’s oeuvre, including the “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” TV series, and the films “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Life of Brian,” and “The Meaning of Life,” all with the permission of the Monty Python group.

The Revolution Orchestra with new Monty Python show that opened February 11, 2024 (Courtesy Moshe Chitayat)

The show’s creators were deeply involved in the work when Hamas terrorists attacked Israel’s southern communities on October 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting 253 others to Gaza.

“I thought we would eventually run it, but I wasn’t sure when; my stomach was twisting and turning with everything that happened,” said Sharon.

With performances already scheduled starting February, however, they had to keep working — although they weren’t sure if and when they’d be able to open.

The Revolution Orchestra with a new Monty Python show that opened February 11, 2024 (Courtesy Moshe Chitayat)

“A day or two after October 7, I had to open my computer and work on these videos of Monty Python and watch some of the films after hearing the terrible things that had happened,” he said.

In some ways, the show’s material protected them, said Sharon. With time, he felt that the continuation of art and culture would afford people moments of enjoyment and hope, enabling them to be more resilient and capable.

Python is all about “layers of messaging,” said Sharon, a longtime fan of the six comics, who emerged from England’s Cambridge and Oxford universities.

The Revolution Orchestra with its new Monty Python show, that opened February 11, 2024 (Courtesy Moshe Chitayat)

“Their intellectual and societal backgrounds allowed them to think unusually,” said Sharon, “and it allowed them to be cynical about institutions, and critical of religion and the church; they could look at life critically but with a lot of empathy and humor.”

Sharon, a self-described “Pythonologue,” wants the orchestra’s audiences to appreciate that freedom of thought, and the spirit and energy that he says enables people to listen to the child inside them.

He was in his twenties when he discovered Monty Python and “it just grabbed me,” said Sharon. “It wasn’t easy to find on TV; you had to look for it.”

The Revolution Orchestra with its new Monty Python show, that opened February 11, 2024 (Courtesy Moshe Chitayat)

For the budding musician, it was like when he heard the Beatles for the first time.

He and his partner in crime, Oppenheim, watched the entire catalog multiple times to create their show.

“I feel like I’m breathing Python,” said Sharon. “It will stay with us forever.”

Performance dates and ticket information for “The Passion of Monty Python” are available on the Revolution Orchestra site.

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