The word “institution” is a word often banded about, but it is certainly one that can be applied to Monty Python. It has retained a place in the hearts of the British and indeed the rest of the world for over 40 years and made national treasures of its founder members. Starting life as a sketch show, it has spawned numerous films, and in more recent times, live shows and a musical, with many of its catchphrases, songs and sketches now part of the nation’s consciousness.
Filled with silly jokes, crudeness and caricatures, Spamalot, lovingly ripped off from Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail” ran first on Broadway, then the West End and versions have been produced across the world ever since. Past cast members include Tim Curry, Phil Jupitus, Joe Pasquale, Bonnie Langford, Jodie Prenger, David Hyde Pierce and Christian Slater.
Joyous chorus numbers in the best tradition of musical theatre, the opportunity for actors to indulge in hamming it up in a spectacular fashion as well as beloved songs and comedy whimsy produces a feel good show that audiences can’t help but enjoy as much as the actors on stage.
Sutton Theatre Company’s production stays true to the original concept and vibe of the show. Unfortunately, due to a nightmare with the trains, I missed some of the first half, but I soon got into the swing of things along with the rest of a chortling, highly enthusiastic audience. The set and the costumes were glorious, and aside from a couple of sticky moments with either a lighting or an offstage costume malfunction, scene changes were quick and slick.
The action is held together by King Arthur, played by Jon Oddy, who had a beautiful, deep, rich voice and his faithful sidekick Patsy, played by a wonderfully hangdog James Tingey. The two worked well together and penultimate number “I’m All Alone” was hilarious, as well as in the ever popular “Always Look On The Bright Side of Life”, which had the audience swaying from side to side almost from the first note.
One of the great things about Spamalot for an amateur society is the opportunity for chorus members to shine in a number of cameos. Theseare numerous, but my particular favourites of these was the Knights That Say Ni, and kudos to Lizi Ball for her work on the stilts! I loved the minstrels, with their dainty leaping and wide, fixed smiles as they told the tale of “Brave Sir Robin”, who it turns out was not so brave and in fact “shat himself and ran away”. Steve Watkins performance as a highly effeminate Prince Herbert was also very enjoyable.
Spamalot is stuffed with upbeat numbers that the whole cast can get involved with. The gloriously camp “His Name is Lancelot”, complete with characters from the Village People and ruffled shirts was a definite highlight and huge amounts of fun.
However, stand out performance for me was Cat Curtis as Lady of The Lake. Her over the top performance and powerful voice were perfect, and she threw herself into the part with relish, clearly enjoying herself enormously.
If I had any criticism, it’s that this production sticks almost too rigidly to the script. One of great things about Spamalot is that it had an almost panto ability to update the show with current issues and trends as well as apparent off the cuff adlibs, that would resonate with the audience of the time. It would have been nice to see a bit more bravery with audience interaction and inclusion of more topical themes.
However it’s a minor point, and Sutton Theatre Company have overall delivered a faithful rendition of an iconic homage to the British sense of humour. I’m sure the show will continue to delight and entertain their audiences for the rest of the week as they did on Thursday during their short run. To both audiences and cast I say; “enjoy, it’s your last chance anyhow!”