Book/Lyrics/Music: Eric Idle
Music: John Du Prez
Director: Daniel Buckroyd
Reviewer: Dan English
Cans of Spam at the ready as the hapless King Arthur and his clan of Knights hilariously hunt for the Holy Grail in this excellent touring production of Monty Python’s Spamalot.
Touted as the ‘lovingly’ put together musical that rips off Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and penned by Python Eric Idle along with composer John Du Prez, the quest for the Holy Grail sees King Arthur (Bob Harms) and his Knights head to Camelot. Thwarted by flying cows and flailing baguettes, it’s a two-hour romp which captures the zany Python humour at its best.
Harms’ portrayal of Arthur is wickedly sharp, with his comic timing perfectly executing the rapid humour of Idle’s script. Skipping across a stage pretending to be horseback with coconuts for accompaniment should not be funny for two hours, yet Harms’ joyous leaps across the stage cannot fail to raise a smile. In addition, its Harms’ wonderful chemistry with on-stage partner Rhys Owen, who plays Arthur’s unappreciated servant Patsy, that produces natural comedic moments in both halves of the musical, culminating in the brilliant, and for Arthur, self-indulgent ‘I’m All Alone’ number.
In a show full of silly songs, you’d be forgiven if you forgot the moments of genuine outstanding musical theatre, which come from Sarah Harlington as the Lady of the Lake. Harlington performs this role well, particularly when switching notes for comedic effect during standout numbers in the first half. The running gag is that her role diminishes as the production moves forward, but this still provides Harlington with chances to demonstrate the sheer power of her voice.
An undoubtable highlight of this production is the scene-stealing performance of Johnathan Tweedie, who switches with ease from Sir Lancelot, to the Frenchman, to Tim the Enchanter – with his delivery and comic timing shining through superbly. In addition, his interaction with the lovable and gloriously flamboyant Prince Herbert (Matthew Pennington) is a treat. In fact, the multi-rolling performance by Tweedie often coincides with the production’s most enjoyable moments, as his role becomes more cameo-based to squeeze in some of the more iconic Python moments, to the delight of the huge crowds of fans this show continues to draw.
Spamalot is boosted enormously by its talented and versatile cast, (the Knights – Norton James, Stephen Arden and Marc Akinfolarin all excellent) with slick and swift scene changes adding to the frenzied chaos of the comedy. All have chances to shine thanks to Ashley Nottingham’s vibrant and eye-catching choreography, which only enhances the play’s consistent humour.
There’s a homely and comfortable quality to the piece which quickly sweeps you away and leaves you looking on the bright side of life. This is the perfect Spamalot production, fully deserving of its plaudits and undoubtedly on its way to pleasing theatres across the country on its tour. Pull open the can of Spam, tuck in and laugh away.
Runs until 28 April 2018 | Image: Contributed