In the year where we Brits have had a year of celebrating our achievements and history – The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics/Paralympics, it seems fitting that we have Monty Python and the Holy Grail clip-clopping its way back to the West End, for our enjoyment.
When Monty Python and the Holy Grail was made, the joke was that the men galloped to the sound of coconuts derived from the budget not stretching far enough, to cover the cost of horses. It is therefore ironic today, that the analysis of how those coconuts could have reached England in the first place, when no swallow would ever be strong enough to carry them, unless of course it was an African swallow, that this joke still remains very funny and the audience were lapping up the silliness behind the story, with laughter all-around! The show also incorporates some more recent references, including some hilarious takes on Boris Johnson, through to the rapper Psy who is currently trending the charts with his Gangham Style song. Spamalot is also a pastiche of the cheesy musical, and includes such numbers as The Song That Goes Like This and The Diva’s Lament, in which the Lady of the Lake curses that she has not been seen for half an act.
Stephen Tompkinson as King Arthur is fantastic and he truly delivers in this role. Tompkinson’s deliverance and accent is perfect. He has that rare ability to make it look as though he is improvising in his reactions to the shenanigans and bizarre scenarios occurring all around him as the acts go on and he is utterly believable and fun. It is however, Arthur’s coconut-playing servant Patsy, played by Todd Carty, who provides the unexpectedly brilliant performance of the evening. For us, he was the stand-out actor of the show. He doesn’t have that many lines to deliver, but when he does, his comedy timing is absolutely spot-on. Best of all, he is unafraid to do what this role really requires, which is to poke fun at himself. His facial expressions are absolutely priceless and this makes him stand out. There are many surprises in the show, which include a bit of audience participation and Eric Idle himself even pops up, as the ‘God’, in video form, which is hilarious.
The Playhouse Theatre is a much smaller venue than the Palace Theatre (where the show has previously been held), but this is rather the making of the current version of the show, which plays on its intimacy, to generate two hours of all-singing, all-dancing, fun. It has been shrewdly shortened and sharpened by Eric Idle and John Du Prez and it is a lot neater, less sprawling production than the original Broadway version and the humour is pure Python. The cartoony backdrops lends a feel of pantomime fun, which also happens to be the season for this!
Some may find it senseless, but that is rather its point and we feel that the entirely nonsensical He Is Not Dead Yetand Fisch Schlapping Song were even funnier than those numbers that occur once the show has started to acquire something of a plot. The French scene is pure childishness and again, proves to be absolutely hilarious, in a totally British and eccentric way. One should leave all seriousness and stresses at the theatre door and enjoy the show. Whether you are a child, or an adult with an almost innocent, playful and child-like sense of humour, you will love this!
We can guarantee that Spamalot will offer you a great evening out, although it might not be without a little pain and discomfort. This would be from all the laughing, of course. Your sides will be sure to ache and your jaw will have had a work out of its own! The entire audience had a great time and the new show was extremely well received, with almost every person in the theatre giving the cast a well-deserved standing ovation. Taking a look around the theatre, there are smiles all around and we leave with a heart that has been slightly warmed, from the icy cold streets of London on a fine winters night, such is the magic of theatre. All together now, “always look on the bright side of life, da-dah, da-dah, da-dah, da-dah, da-dah”. You will also be sure to be singing the shows closing number all the way home.