Allow me to set the scene – King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table have been given their quest by God to seek the Holy Grail. Along the way, they encounter many dangerous foes: the Black Knight, and impenetrable French castle, and the… Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog? Welcome to the madness that is Monty Python’s Spamalot.
Based on the well loved film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot follows the hilarious exploits of King Arthur (Nick Lewis) as he gathers his quirky collection of knights to find the ancient relic. During the course of the musical we meet many familiar characters from Arthurian myth – Sir Lancelot (John Lewis), Sir Galahad (Joe McNeice), Sir Bedevere (Andrew Roberts), and the Lady of the Lake (Emily Ramsden) – as well as some less familiar ones: Patsy, King Arthur’s trusty servant (George Stagnell), and Sir Robin, the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Lancelot (Adam Sower). This motley crew come together and experience the strangest adventure ever known to stage.
The musical features all the best parts from the film, namely the French taunters, the Black Knight and the Knights who say ‘Ni!,’ which were a particular hit with the audience. However, there were some equally amusing parts that were unique to Spamalot, such as Sir Lancelot’s sub-plot, when he finds out something about himself that no one would expect.
One of the best parts for me was the fact that it kept poking fun at itself all the way through. There are certain characters who were self-aware, and knew that they were in a musical, which added an extra dimension to the comedy. There was even an entire musical number about how it’s a musical! These forth-wall breaks resonated well with the audience, as we were suddenly a part of the production.
Technically, it was superb. There was a mix of pre-recorded and live music performed by the house band, and both worked together seamlessly. Of particular note is the projection screen, which was used in the prologue to show a map of Britain, and during the first act to show the hairy legs of God. The actors interacted brilliantly with this prop, as well as the other staging. There was even comedy to be found in the moving of scenery – the actors were constantly visible, and ran away in disgrace whenever they were seen. It was the little details like this – a particularly over-zealous dancer, an errand stagehand, an uncalled-for dancing frog – that really made the show.
The real show-stealer was the Lady of the Lake. Ramsden’s voice is amazing, and she truly captured the overly dramatic diva nature of the character. Her songs were particularly good too – ‘Diva’s Lament/What Happened to My Part?’ in Act 2 was a personal favourite, again because it pokes fun at the fact that it’s a musical, but also because it really showcased her voice. Her acting was over-the-top, but in a way that completely worked for the character.
Spamalot is a must-see for all Monty Python fans, and even those who just love comedy. Though a little slow in the first act, the pace really picks up after the interval as the actors settled into their characters and the best songs were performed. For someone who has never experienced Monty Python before, my one piece of advice would be to accept the madness. Don’t question it, don’t try to understand it, just let yourself be immersed in it and you’ll find you’ll enjoy yourself a lot more. The Pick Me Up team put on a marvelous show, and the musical itself is thoroughly entertaining.
Spamalot is now playing at the Grand Opera House York until the 26th November 2016.