BBC announce ‘Holy Flying Circus’

by Lynn Connolly

In 1979, Monty Python’s film Life Of Brian caused outrage around the world. Nuns with banners picketed cinemas, councils banned the film without even seeing it and the religious group Festival of Light organised a concerted campaign against the film, trying to get it banned.

Against this backdrop Michael Palin and John Cleese found themselves facing prominent society figures Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark in a television debate in front of a live studio audience to defend their film against charges of blasphemy: but who won?

Written by Tony Roche (In The Loop, The Thick Of It) Holy Flying Circus is a fantastical re-imagining of the controversy surrounding the release of Life Of Brian. Witty and humorous in tone, the comedy drama incorporates surreal cutaways including puppetry and animation in telling its narrative.

Richard Klein, Controller BBC Four, comments: “This is a smart and witty take on both the nature of censorship and the world of Monty Python. Tony Roche’s script is both bold and entertaining, a wonderfully warm homage to one of the most original of British comedy teams.”

An ensemble cast piece, the drama features: Darren Boyd (Green Wing and Sky’s forthcoming Spy) as John Cleese, Charles Edwards (Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre) as Michael Palin, Steve Punt (Punt And Dennis, Would I Lie To You?) as Eric Idle, Rufus Jones (The Dutch Elm Conservatoire, Katy Brand Big Ass Show) as Terry Jones, Tom Fisher (The Illusionist and Sky’s forthcoming Treasure Island) as Graham Chapman and Phil Nichol (Edinburgh Comedy Award winner) as Terry Gilliam.

Holy Flying Circus is a talkbackTHAMES/Hillbilly Television co-production for BBC Four. It is directed by Owen Harris (Misfits, Secret Diary Of A Call Girl) and co-produced by Polly Leys and Kate Norrish for Hillbilly Television Ltd; the executive producer is Matthew Read for the BBC and Jamie Laurenson, BBC Commissioning Editor.

Hillbilly Television and Holy Flying Circus co-producer, Kate Norrish comments: “Holy Flying Circus is very pertinent as the debate about what is an acceptable subject matter for comedy rages on.”

Jamie Laurenson adds: “BBC drama is constantly looking for bold and challenging stories to tell, following recent dramas on BBC Four including Women In Love and Lennon Naked. Holy Flying Circus by Tony Roche is a funny and truly original look at how Monty Python struggled with censorship in the release of Life Of Brian.”
© BBC Drama Publicity


Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.