Thirty years on from the masterpiece of cinematic funniness Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot rips off its predecessor in the most loving way possible. Having conquered Broadway and the West End, the touring production treks King Arthur up and down Britain to claim the rest of us.
The plot, if we can call it that, follows King Arthur’s hunt to gather a table of knights and hunt for the Grail. In keeping with the Python mythos, the plot is of little importance. Rather it is the farce of the journey in which we find delight. Having stitched together the most memorable scenes from the film, Eric Idle ensures all the strongest gags are present. Most memorable is a verbal slaughtering of Arthur and his round table by the French taunters.
The country’s love for all things Python is evident from the charm it manages to retain even with things that haven’t transferred to the stage well. So familiar is the audience with the Black Knight encounter, most are laughing before the routine even begins. His dismemberments aren’t the most subtle, but its clunkiness is met with an acceptance only something such as Spamalot can receive.
King Arthur, playing delightfully straight by Bob Harms, is brash, yet an excellent grounding for others around him. Vocally our Lady of the Lake, Avenue Q star Sarah Harlington, dominates the production. Her number Whatever Happened to My Part lives up to its powerful diva requirements. All cast members, knights and ensemble deliver the famous gags with perfect timing.
It’s just a fact of theatre that touring companies can struggle to convey a sense of grandeur. This is a compacted production which keeps the spirit of the original, but Camelot seems a lot tamer with only two showgirls. The entire production, whilst amusing, comes off as “Python lite”. With that said, it has an undeniable charm. Its lampooning of all things Webber, whilst conducting a pastiche of his musicals, is delightful. Numbers such as The Song That Goes Like This, complete with gondola and smoke machine, show off the stylings of du Prez and Idle excellently.
Spamalot is a bag of this country’s finest comedy – sarcastic, outlandish, ridiculous and farcical. Fans of the original film and group will recognise the humour, reminisce fondly at the lyrics and newcomers will be flung bewildered into the warm embrace of much-loved hilarity.