Monty Python's Spamalot

©Eric Idle; Image credit: UK Theatre Network

After almost three years at university, it felt like it was about time for a night out that actually fell into the high culture category rather than consisting of Orange Wednesdays or Vudu Lounge. So with a relatively smart jacket on and a housemate in tow, off to York's Grand Opera House we went, for an evening of Monty Python-themed fun in the form of Spamalot. The Opera House really does live up to its Grand title and looking around the audience of an age range spanning from prepubescent to octogenarian (strange, as student life sometimes makes me forget that 'real' people live in York too), there was a feeling of excitement and cameraderie for the knight ahead.

For those familiar with Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, Spamalot won't throw up many surprises for you, just plain old, ridiculous and silly entertainment. Even if you haven’t seen the film however, you’re sure to enjoy yourself as this play is all about one thing: fun. The focus is on audience participation and enjoyment, with the fourth wall being well and truly demolished, while the storyline careers from a Vegas-style Camalot to disco-infused wedding via a send-up of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Steven Pacey has taken over the crown of comedian Marcus Brigstocke as King Arthur, excelling as the straightman to the infectious silliness of both characters and plot. Dancing on Ice star Bonnie Langford shone as the Lady of the Lake, infusing the character with equal parts of heroine, diva and comedienne. The real surprise however, was Patsy the downtrodden serf who, with expert comic timing, brought in a huge number of laughs from facial expressions alone.

After debating just how much Patsy looked like 'a somewhat annoying guy out of Eastenders who had a famous death' I ventured the thought to my housemate who, as it turns out, has never seen Eastenders and was therefore useless in this situation. She did put forward however that one of the Knights looked a lot like "that guy from the Daily Show with the French sounding name and glasses". As it turns out Patsy was indeed played by Todd Carty, of Mark Fowler from Eastenders fame, but unfortunately Sir Bedevere was not Stephen Colbert. Jane: 1 Housemate Lucie*: Nil

There was the worry that this would be the plot for the Holy Grail but with songs jammed into any part where the action was a little slow. Thankfully this was not the case: if the success of a song can be judged by the amount of people still humming or singing it in the interval, then I can safely say these numbers did pretty well. Housemate Lucie's fear that it would be a night of slapstick and arse jokes was allayed by the distinct element of satirical bite - as one knight runs away with another man, he slyly comments, "Just think, in a thousand years this will still be controversial."

One of the most endearing aspects of the show is how much everyone involved appeared to be enjoying themselves, which rubbed off hugely on the crowd. After a halting start due to laughter, Arthur pulled off the name change of the Knights that say Ni to the rather more illustrious Knights that say "Ecky Ecky Ecky F'tang F'tang Olé Biscuitbarrel...And I think to myself what a wonderful world, OOOH YEEEAH", concluding in full Louis Armstrong delivery, to the delight of everyone both onstage and off. Even the orchestra seemed to be having a great time, lapping up the final applause and taking multiple bows worthy of any West End Luvvie.

With sing-a-longs, disco numbers and quite literally bible-bashing monks, the whole night was a raucous bit of fun from start to finish, out of which everyone poured looking on the "bright side of life", or death depending on your viewpoint. The only downside was that the run in York was a mere five days, and that we caught the show on its final performance, though to a full house, on the Saturday.

I fully suggest that you load up your peasant, get banging your coconuts together, and gallivant off to catch this show elsewhere around the country, because to miss it would be worse than having someone fart in your general direction.

*Lucie's name has not been changed for anonymity, because I would like everyone to know that there are still some people in the world who have not lost an hour or more of their lives to Eastenders. Hallelujah.



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