The comedy of Monty Python is not quite dead yet, and it’s doubtful it will ever be. For those who grew up with this timeless humour, it is impossible not to enjoy Spamalot. The distinctively British humour that mixes the intellectual with the just plain silly cannot be beaten. Do not be misled; there is very little new content in the show. Instead, it is a self-proclaimed rip-off of jokes from The Holy Grail, Flying Circus and the like. But, this is not to the detriment of the show, as jabs at the French and limb-less knights never cease to entertain. The Holy Grail, combined with delightfully clichéd musical theatre numbers and a little more glitter gives the audience Spamalot.
Songs the audience knows, such as “Brave Sir Robin” and “Knights of the Round Table”, make an appearance alongside new numbers that expand on classic jokes, for example “I Am Not Dead Yet”. The rest of the music pokes fun at the genre, mocking musical theatre with every line. “The Song That Goes Like This” tries too hard to achieve this irony, but “How to Succeed on Broadway” is the injection of modernity that the show needs. The ensemble includes chanting monks, cheery Lake-r girls and spontaneously reanimated corpses. The energy of the show never wanes, requiring the audience to remain engaged throughout.
Joe Pasquale charms as King Arthur. His cartoonish voice, which has in fact voiced cartoons, simultaneously emasculates and endears the character to the audience. The show allows Pasquale room for improvisation, which on more than one occasion causes another cast member to break character, dissolving into a fit of giggles. The Lady of the Lake, played by Sarah Earnshaw, is the representation of everything a leading lady in cheesy musical theatre should be. The ‘watery tart’s’ belting ballads and diva tendencies are a bit of a nuisance, and simply serve to pass the time between the silliness everyone has come for.
The rest of the cast embrace the music and choreography, dominated by jazz squares and chorus lines, with all the self-deprecating charisma that the musical calls for. The actors do require a strange humility, as they mock the genre they have built their careers on. This is perfectly embodied by the beautifully camp Lancelot dancing about in a glittered thong and by Sir Robin repeatedly miming soiling his pants. It facilitates a wonderful relationship between cast and audience, allowing for mutual and infectious enjoyment of the others company.
The beauty of Monty Python comedy is that it never ceases to entertain, regardless of the number of times the audience has heard these jokes before; Spamalot is no exception. It does not expand much on the classic humour, but in truth, who wants it to?
Photo: Aravind Savaraj