Spamalot – UK Tour
New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Spamalot, the “lovingly ripped off” musical version of the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is basically two hours of silliness on stage. First shown on Broadway in 2005, Spamalot has been revived by Christopher Luscombe and now tours the UK staring comedian Joe Pasquale as King Arthur.
The set is reminiscent of that of a ‘make-do’ panto set which is of course appropriate for the style of the piece, the costumes also reflect this feel. The production does teeter on the edge of pantoland, perhaps a little too closely at times as it comes close to diminishing the value of the material. The on-stage corpsing (which seem planned in advance, at least in sections) provide giggles to the audience the first but become a little worn when we are treated to them numerously. However there is some great improvisational work shown, for instance in the “Knights Who Now Say” section with the near impossible to repeat phrases and songs snippets – which will be varied from performance to performance – give a fresh feel to the comedy and bring genuine laughs.
Though not consistent, Joe Pasquale is funny in parts, mainly during his ‘to the audience’ sections. He brings a certain quality of the Everyman to the role, which works given that Arthur is plucked out of obscurity to become king: but his diction lets him down, and the less said about his singing the better. Todd Carty gives a good performance as Patsy, conveying the loveable peasant in a very amicable light. He’s a mainstay on stage who melts into the background when needed, but never lets character slip; he works tirelessly throughout. The rapport between the two is vital to this performance, and the number I’m All Alone proves this as Carty gives some delicious comedy moments straight out to the audience as King Arthur completely ignores him.
Sarah Earnshaw gives the stand-out performance of the evening, she is the perfect diva as The Lady of the Lake. Her voice is robust and so incredibly versatile, seldom will you hear a belt as strong and true, and she does not miss a trick comically either- one of those performances you would benefit from seeing more than once to pick out the nuances.
The multi-skilled supporting cast are all fantastic. The sign of great character versatility in such arrangements is when it becomes difficult to distinguish which actor plays each certain cameo; this is certainly the case with this production. Richard Meek gives a perfectly vain Sir Galahad, complete with long flowing locks, Richard Kent produces some great vocal work as Prince Herbert and Will Hawksworth gives a great rendition of You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz, with updated lyrics to keep the song topical, which it requires to work to its full potential.
John Du Prez and Eric Idle’s work with pastiche and musical cliché is lavished with the Monty Python feel, despite the absence of the original cast and the direction is sharp allowing the gags to flow. This is typical Monty Python silliness bound to have you laughing – a panto for grown ups with strong performances from a strong ensemble.