Paul Johnson | 23 Nov 2017 10:14am
It’s been just over a decade since Eric Idle’s musical, ‘loosely’ based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, followed up its initial Broadway success in the West End. Since then the tremendously silly telling of the Arthurian legend has enjoyed not only a second London run but also a couple of UK tours, during which time a host of celebrity faces have featured.
Via Theatrical Rights Worldwide (who’s success across the UK has now seen the company open its first London office), amateur rights have been released for Spamalot in the last couple of years, resulting in huge demand from societies throughout the country.
In an all-new production from Selladoor, the musical’s third professional UK tour plays at New Wimbledon Theatre this week before taking a short break for panto season, after which time the show continues around the UK until 19 May. My seventh outing with King Arthur and his clip-clopping coconuts, in SW19 last night, is arguably the funniest production to date – and is one which every amateur society thinking of opening a tin of Spam in the future should go and see.
With a budget-sized touring cast of just thirteen and a four-strong band in the orchestra pit, Daniel Buckroyd’s production doesn’t include any comedians, reality TV celebrities or soap stars, but instead relies on plenty of creativity and Idle’s brilliantly funny book & lyrics to keep audiences in stitches from start to finish. The absence of any ‘star’ billing means that rather than focus on one or two roles, the show is much stronger across the entire company.
Also, where the sheer frantic pace of the show’s previous incarnations meant that snippets of the classic Python humour were inevitably lost, in this new offering Buckroyd has focused on making sure every ounce of comedy is utilised and enjoyed. The real genius of Spamalot of course has been Eric Idle’s ability to broaden and adapt the arguable niche appeal of Monty Python’s style to the masses without ‘selling out’ – the new show is the glorious result of this.
On the face of it Spamalot – not unlike pantomime – tends to look easy to perform when, in reality, it is anything but. You must not only understand what you’re doing but also be able to convey that to an audience. Buckroyd’s cast, choreographed by Ashley Nottingham, provide something of a hilarious master-class in how to embrace this style of comedy. Lots of Spam, lots of ham, and even a nod to the amateur sector when King Arthur sings: “This show’s done by am-dram-alot!”
As Arthur, Bob Harms provides a lovely stand-out performance as the King of the Britons. His relationship with Rhys Owen as Arthur’s put-upon sidekick, Patsy, is wonderfully worked by both performers especially in numbers such as Always Look On the Bright Side of Life and I’m All Alone. Sarah Harlington’s diva-esque Lady of the Lake is equally divine – featuring a quite stunning vocal as well as plenty of over-the-top sass from Harlington. In a role that enjoys some of the shows best numbers, including Find Your Grail, The Song That Goes Like This and Whatever Happened To My Part?, this outstanding performer makes it all look very easy.
As well as the synergy of the ensemble, King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table are all afforded the time to expand their own roles which further strengthens the show’s success. It’s all very silly and you’ll be laughing from curtain up to the final “Company Bow”.
Spamalot plays at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday, 25 November.
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- : 22/11/2017