5 minutes with Carol Cleveland,

Carol Cleveland

Carol Cleveland

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You must be thrilled to be involved in the Monty Python shows at the 02 Arena?

Absolutely, and I’ve never even seen the 02 Arena! I’ve only recently discovered that I’m not going to see it until our first night’s performance, so that’s going to be a bit of a shock. First night is always pretty panicky anyway. I’ll try and take a peek at it so I don’t freak out too much.

Your book, Pom Poms Up! is filled with great anecdotes, some involving hit show the avengers. How was it working on one of the most popular, and controversial, episodes?

We had great fun doing that particular episode, The Hellfire Club, and that is the one that was banned at the time. They’ve never shown it in America. Of course you look back at it, and compared to what’s on television these days, it was very mild indeed. The scene I was involved with, which involved Peter Wyngarde and me having this little smooch on top of the bed, fully clothed, was deemed too outrageous. We had great fun doing it.

What are your memories of getting involved with Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1969?

I was only supposed to be in four of the five episodes they’d written in the beginning. Not only had I not worked with any of the Pythons, I hadn’t met them. I’d watched some of them on television; I had a vague idea of what to expect, but then of course they sent me the scripts, and the scripts did not include Terry Gilliam’s animation, so the sketches had no end and no beginning. So I’m reading these scripts thinking: ‘What? I don’t get it’. I thought it would all become clear when I got to rehearsals. I only got it when we went into the studio for the first time and Terry Gilliam had done his animation – only then did I see how the sketches were going to be linked.

What was your reaction to Gilliam’s often gruesome animation?

I remember being quite horrified when I saw one at the rehearsal. It was one of the characters with the head slicing off and all these brains and things flying out, and I remember going: ‘Oh my God!’

Were you frustrated that the pythons only seemed to write glamour girl scenes for you?

They did apologise to me in the beginning. It was Michael (Palin) who came up to me by the time we got to the second or third episode, and they realised I wasn’t just a pretty face. Michael said: ‘I’m so sorry we don’t have more for you to do Carol. We’re just not very good at writing for women.’ They were the ‘old bags’ and I was the young girl, and that was it.

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