Spamalot – Review 07/05/12
Monty Python’s Spamalot is a musical comedy ”lovingly ripped off from” the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Spamalot tells the tale of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table with a modern twist that parodies Broadway. The show features the hilarious songs ‘He Is Not Dead Yet’, ‘Knights Of The Round Table’, ‘Find Your Grail’ and of course ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.
This week, Spamalot is at The Cambridge Corn Exchage on Wheeler Street. Cambridge 105 were lucky enough to be given three pairs of tickets to give away, and a set of press tickets for Monday night’s opening show.
Having already seen Phil Jupitus on 2011′s tour of Spamalot, I was very intrigued to see what a new cast led by comedian Marcus Brigstocke, actress Bonnie Langford and actor Todd Carty (‘Eastenders’, ‘The Bill’) would bring to the 2012 tour of the show. I was not disappointed.
I should take a moment now to explain that I myself am a huge fan of the 1975 Monty Python film ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’. Having over the years committed just about every word from every scene and every song to memory in a way only a fan does, my expectations were high. And just as when I first saw the show, my sceptical glasses were securely balanced on the end of my nose. This is not of course to say that the show is specifically for people who have seen the film. It is in fact, very accessible.
The casting was spectacular. Being a huge fan of Marcus Brigstocke, particularly of his satirical comedy and stand-up, I was not let down by his portrayal of Arthur, King of the Britons. I would imagine he himself a huge fan of Python, or at least a student of their comedy heritage. He definitely seemed to enjoy the role, struggling not to laugh in some of the shows more ad-lib sections. Bonnie Langford’s voice brought with it an adaptability that complimented the comic nature of the show well, she being able to sound serious and silly (and shift between the two) on cue. I also very much enjoyed Todd Carty’s use of the integral coconuts, which he incorporated well into his portrayal of Patsy, Arthur’s trusty aid.
The sets, specially their very expensive forest, were clearly constructed with the drawing and animation style of Python member Terry Gilliam in mind, making for a nice mash-up of stage and screen that suited this adaptation well. The clever execution of scenes and their set pieces surrounding the battle with the Black Knight made for a worthy tribute of that most memorable scene in the film.
The music is good, with the score including a selection of tracks from Monty Python’s repertoire, along with a selection of new songs composed for the show. Some of the newer songs I felt lacked coherence in the show, and in places seemed as if they’d just put in any old music just to buff things out. Perhap’s that was just me, but a couple of the songs such as the chanting in “The Laker Cheer Girls” and “All for one” just didn’t work in the context of ‘Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail’. Even if it is a re-imagining.
But, the nit-picking from a certified Python fan-boy aside, I must admit the show is highly enjoyable. Spamalot features enough funny material old and new to keep even the most fanatical Python fan appeased for the duration. An experienced cast accept and embrace the silliness of the comic world in which their characters inhabit, and their enjoyment of the material sends positive ripples through even the smallest audiences. A definite must-see, and a good start for anyone looking to get their teeth into the works of the comedy troupe that is Monty Python.
Review by Stewart Paske