28th Mar2018

‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’ Theatre Review

by Philip Rogers

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Monty Python’s Spamalot is a musical comedy adaption of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), itself a parody of the Legend of King Arthur and the Knights of a very round table. With Spamalot currently on a quest across the UK, I attended the most recent performance at the Towngate Theatre. Having seen the original West End production, I was interested to see how well the touring production would compare and I am pleased to say it delivers a fresh feel to the show, as it brings the magic of Camelot to Basildon.

Spamalot maintains the feel of the original film and transfers most of the classic scenes onto the stage including knights horse riding without horses, rude Frenchman, killer rabbits the fearsome black Knight and not forgetting the people who say Ni! But what really makes the show special are the brilliant songs, with lyrics written by original Monty Python member Eric Idle. Apart from ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ all of the songs were written for the play, and as expected they are memorable, extremely silly and maintain the unorthodox pythonesque humour. Songs such as ‘He is not dead yet’ really hit it on the head for a musical, which you still find yourself humming as you leave. Whilst more solemn and moving songs such as ‘I’m all alone’ create a more sensitive mood, whilst still keeping the audience laughing.

It is the pace of show which makes it such a joy to watch. Not all of the jokes work as well as others, but there is always something else happening and the scenes are kept brief, so the jokes are not overrun. The talented cast do a brilliant job in bringing the energy of the show to the stage, with a multitude of talents. With the physical slapstick and dancing or the exuberant delivery of the comical lines and showtune numbers. They kept the audience laughing, but it looked as though they were enjoying it too. Even a few minor errors which occurred with props, just added to the humour as they just kept running with it, using the blunders as an additional entity to the show.

It is difficult to single any of the cast out as there were no weaknesses in the performance and each of the main cast members were given an opportunity to shine. However, credit has to be given to Bob Harms who leads the show with a comical charge as Arthur King of the Britons. Bob really stands out with his performance, without overshadowing the rest of the cast. His comic timing proving especially effective alongside his diligent working-class side kick and horse trotter Patsy played by Rhys Owen.

The other outstanding performance is Sarah Harlington as the Lady of the lake, who has a powerful voice and amazing range when it comes to her vocal style. In addition to her vocal abilities, the thing that makes her really special is the physical comedy in her performance, especially with her facial expressions which had me in hysterics. One of my favourite moments is her duets with Sir Galahad (Norton James) where they both overperform the song ‘Come with me’, however her solo performance of ‘Spamalot diva’s lament (whatever happened to my part?)’ was one of the many highlights of the night.

The show continues to evolve, and I love some of the additional changes which have been made in the latest production, including some well-placed modern political satire. Spamalot is about having fun, delivering a slick mixture of the slapstick comedy, catchy show tunes and brilliant wit which continues to introduce the brilliant pythonesque comedy to a new generation and in music a new audience. With an excellent cast, this comes highly recommended whether you are a long-term Monty Python fan or just a fan of musicals, there is something here for everyone.

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