I was never a fan of the puerile Monty Python but Eric Idle’s Spamalot is an infectious delight, 100 minutes of pure laugh-out-loud comedy with the polished production values of a high end musical.
It still reduces me to tears of laughter no matter how many times I see the show. With a frequently changing cast (with the exception of regular Todd Carty who probably can’t believe his luck at having long-term employment in theatre) there’s always a new performance to enjoy.
Spamalot clip-clopped into Aylesbury Waterside tonight for a week-long run and this must-see show will guarentee smiles all round.
Starring as King Arthur, or, more accurately, returning as the noble monarch, is entertainer Joe Pasquale who has forsaken his usual high-pitched, squeaky voice, for proper thespian pronunciation as befitting his royal status.
Before the story gets going we’re treated to a bit of Fisch Schlapping and monks beating themselves up before Arthur appears to discuss the pedantics of coconuts being used in a musical based in Medieval England.
There’s killer rabbits, corpses that refuse to die (He Is Not Dead Yet), the butchering of a Black Knight, a guest appearance by the voice of God – who looks remarkably like Downton’s Hugh Bonneville, the mighty Knights That Say Ni, and a warbling Lady Of The Lake.
Arthur looks for knights to sit around his very, very round table and he ends up with a motley bunch.
Sir Robin is frightened of hurting himself, Dennis Galahad spouts left wing dogma until he spends a night with the Lady and is transformed into a silky-headed peacock, Sir Bedevere isn’t that clever despite the specs, and Lancelot..well what can you say? (other than Aiden Turner has nothing to worry about).
The story is very silly, as you’d expect. Arthur hunts for the Holy Grail aided, but mostly hindered by the knights.
One of the funniest scenes is when the entourage pull up outside a French castle and are barracked by four guards who let rip with a string of colourful insults.
The surprising thing about director Christopher Luscombe production is the sheer quality of every scene. I don’t mean that as a slight but Python always prided itself on cheap sets and tacky costumes.
Here we have a show bursting with top drawer songs, big dance numbers worthy of a glittering Vegas spectacular (and dancers with the longest legs I have ever seen), and hysterically funny dialogue in every secend of every scene.
Pasquale makes an engaging king with a ready line of adlibs while Carty is so adept at playing his manservant Patsy that he could probably do it in his sleep.
The knights – Will Hawksworth, Richard Meek, Josh Wilmott and Jamie Tyler are great larks, often popping up as as number of eccentric secondary characters (Tyler’s French guard is a hoot).
Richard Kent (what a singing voice!) has four roles but excels as the sexually ambiguous Prince Herbert.
And our guest Lady Of The Lake, West End musical theatre star Sarah Earnshaw, overacts gloriously as she belts out show-tunes (with a voice that comes from Wicked crossed with Evita).
A great (k)night’s entertainment.
Spamalot runs at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until Saturday.