Spamalot is a euphoric celebration of Monty Python, daubed with a few modern flourishes and presented as a refreshingly un-reverential take on musical storytelling.
The cast supply Python-esque intonation, timing and slapstick physicality that is both engaging and entertaining. The originality is not tarnished by replication and the mimicry is a delight to watch.
However, if anything is indicated by the gentleman attending the performance dressed as a member of the Spanish inquisition, it is that most of those attending are probably already longstanding Python fans. It is this original content that doesn’t fall short, with such appreciation already in place for this much loved material, but the attempt to inject modern cultural references that at times feels slightly out of touch.
Yet, it is through the second act that we see exactly why the show received a Tony award. An aura of self-aware cynicism is introduced by the cast’s various forays over the fourth wall and the subsequent not-so-gentle ribbing of the musical genre ensures the musical should be seen as a modern Python-inspired performance which stands up in its own right as opposed to being simply a Holy Grail rip-off.
In comparison to the first act, the cast come into their own and produce performances that expand on previous character interpretations. This is particularly the case with Jonathan Tweedie who plays an increasingly flamboyant Sir Lancelot.
Accompanied by an accomplished band, the star of the stage is Sarah Harlington. Her performance as the Lady of the Lake is as gutsy and stage-grabbing as her voice. She shines in her renditions of ‘Whatever Happened to My Part’ and ‘The Song that Goes Like This’.
However, those at the sound desk could take a hint from Guinevere when she quips “you’re singing far too loud” with regards to the cast as a whole.
The set design is simple and relies on the layering of one dimensional models to create the feeling of space on stage. The most effective example of this is the use of a star backdrop not unlike the closing credits of The Meaning of Life.
A forest of painted trees evokes a spirit of am-dram that perfectly suits the low-budget style of the Holy Grail and harkens back to the surreal animations of Terry Gilliam. Excluding some fantastic stilt-work, the choreography is simple and at times lacks synchronicity.
While its programme dubs Spamalot as something that has “lovingly ripped off from the motion picture” this feels like an underestimation of a show well worth going to see whether you are an evangelical Python convert or simply a fan of the unapologetically silly.
Runs until Saturday 30th September
PhotoCredit: Selladoor Productions