Music: John Du Prez, Eric Idle
Book and Lyrics: Eric Idle
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Reviewer: Pete Benson
After the demise of Monty Python’s Flying Circus all of the Pythons branched out and went onto huge success in various aspects of the entertainment industry. Eric Idle was always the musical one as demonstrated in his mockumentary The Rutles. Here he teams up with composer John Du Prez to create Spamalot, a musical version of the Arthurian legend, based on the Python’s 1975 low budget film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
If Monty Python were a band then this would be their concept album. It is as if we are watching a themed episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus live on stage but with only the good bits left in. For the most part it follows the script of the film but there are lots of references to the TV series squirreled away to delight fans from tins of Spam to an exclamation of ‘f’tang f’tang olay biscuit barrel’.
However, you don’t have to be a fan to enjoy this effervescent silly musical romp. The through story is as strong as most musical plotlines and the songs are good. amid all of the silliness is the odd piece of satire, often aimed at the world of commercial theatre. At one point the celebrities in the cast sing about how the provincial audiences won’t go to see a good show if has no star names attached to it. There are several self-referencing songs the best being, The Song That Goes Like This, and The Diva’s Lament sung brilliantly by Sarah Earnshaw as a grotesquely exaggerated Diva, caricaturing vocal singing styles.
The stand out song of the show is the well-loved, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. It is quite strange experiencing this song away from its original controversial setting. Indeed, despite the beautiful irony of the original version this is clearly its natural home and it is given a full blown musical production. At the end we all heartily sing along using the words on ye olde song sheet.
Todd Carty who plays Patsy, a Baldrick like sidekick, has a surprisingly good singing voice and he and Joe Pasquale as the king have excellent onstage chemistry. At times Pasquale seems to stray from the script and crack up the rest of the cast but this may just be well scripted ‘improvisation’. Either way in this setting it is very effective and Pasquale always seems to be having the time of his life entertaining the audience.
Some nice stage trickery is used to reproduce special effects from the film ranging through severed limbs, decapitation by rabbit and even a gratuitous flying bovine.
The ensemble cast give a good account of themselves playing multiple characters. Richard Kent’s sexually confused Prince Herbert is a particular delight in an absurd reworking of the maiden’s rescue from the tower which is built around some lovely quick-fire dialogue.
Despite its sketch based structure the show never feels disparate nor repetitive. Each scene brings something new to the proceedings. I can only imagine the joy that was had creating the ridiculous tirade of insults the French taunt the English with or the throwaway puns often accompanied with a ridiculous prop.
This is an enjoyable show and despite its many laps of the touring circuit the production still feels very fresh and energetic. This is an unabashed fun night out at the theatre.
Runs until June 2015