“Spamalot” Review

For a Monty Python fan, the prospect of a live stage musical version of the classic Holy Grail is exciting enough. If he is also a Doctor Who fan, having Peter Davison star is enough to make him go Ekky-ekky-ekky-ekky-z’Bang, zoom-Boing, z’nourrrwringmm.

Actually a sort of Python’s greatest hits, crammed with dialogue and songs from the entire cannon as well as brand new material, the only thing missing from the show is Monty Python. It reminded me rather of University. Who didn’t, as a member of their Uni’s Monty Python appreciation society (ours was called Bewilderbeast) try to re-enact their favourites of the classic sketches? I know I did.

At least half of the Python genius is in the writing. They were terrific performers, but their writing can stand up on its own. The stage performances were very good. Davison was great – conveying that same awkward self consciousness that Chapman used to possess. Some of the other cast members played the Pythons playing their parts while others did their own thing (for example the French taunter – and wisely – you can’t do Cleese better than Cleese). Idle and Cleese themselves are heard in recording.

In fact the only thing that seemed slightly off was… the budget. There was obviously too much money! Both Flying Circus and the films were all done on the most minimal of budgets so it was strange seeing the lavish musical numbers (though the catapulting of the cow felt suitably low budget). The main additions to the classic material are elaborate send ups of the musicals, taking full advantage of the West End setting, which made it feel a bit like two shows… I did wonder if it might have worked better abandoning the Holy Grail material and weaving the songs into a new story. However, these are minor quibbles.

Highly, highly entertaining stuff. I laughed all night.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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