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Spamalot on Tour: We demand a shrubbery...
Monty Python's Spamalot
Member Name: Mephit
Monty Python's Spamalot
'Spamalot' is currently touring the country and I caught the show at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.
*** Tour ***
'Spamalot' ran at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, from the 31st of January to the 5th of February. The tour continues all over the UK until June '11, the next stop after Plymouth being Manchester's Palace Theatre. Dates and locations are available at the 'Spamalot on tour' website (www.spamalotontour.co.uk/tour).
On one evening of their run at Plymouth (Wednesday), the cast did a Q & A session for the audience after the show, so it would be worth checking if they intend to do that again at other venues, if that would appeal to you. One of my friends was there for the Plymouth Q & A, and said it was really interesting and funny.
*** Tickets ***
I bought the Other Half tickets for Christmas, online direct from the Theatre Royal's website. We had front row tickets and I paid £31.50 for each. The tickets arrived by post within a week of booking. The Theatre Royal has a selection of tickets and concessions, so as with any venue, how much you pay depends on where you're willing to sit and which day you want to go. Tickets ranged between £10 and £34.50.
*** Theatre Royal, Plymouth ***
The Theatre Royal is in the centre of Plymouth, with plenty of car-parking nearby. The closest multi-storey car-park is usually 'pay as you exit', but in the evenings you can pay your parking in advance to avoid the queues following a show. The bottom level is devoted to disabled parking, while the next level is parent & child parking.
The theatre has two performance areas, the main one and the Drum. It's a vibrant and lively theatre, which claims to be the largest and best attended regional producing theatre in the UK. We've seen several shows there before, from Shakespeare to panto to the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'.
When we got there, staff were selling 'Spamalot' merchandise in the lobby. These consisted of mugs, t-shirts, programmes and badges: the usual stuff. It wasn't too extortionately priced, in the £5 to £20 range. At the main bar, service was speedy and we ordered a wine and cider for then and also in advance for the intermission. These four drinks set us back £14.40.
We found our seats easily, since we were in the front row! The only downside of where we were was one of our seats was right where the row angled to fit round the stage: leg room at this corner was slightly reduced. It would have been fine except that the person sitting next to us was on the large side (with apologies) and it was hard not to touch legs - which was rather more intimate with a stranger than I wanted to be! But this slight awkwardness was forgotten once the show began. In front of us there was the low wall and steps around the orchestra pit. These were very tempting for us to put our bags and coats on, but ushers came along and told everyone to keep the area clear.
At intermission we found our pre-ordered drinks quickly, on a shelf running to one side of the main bar area. They had ushers selling small pots of ice-cream for £2.50 each around the theatre as well as at the bars.
*** The Show ***
'Spamalot' is a musical based on the 1975 film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", which was a phenomenon at the time and has provided new generations with endless laughs and opportunities to quote from the film.
If you're unaware of the Pythons, first I'd be a bit gobsmacked, and then I'd recommend you watch the Holy Grail as it's perhaps the most accessible part of their comic legacy. The Python team were Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. They came to fame with the sketch show 'Monty Python's Flying Circus', an anarchic and innovative comedy series of the late '60s, early '70s. Eric Idle is the force behind the stage-show.
The show's name 'Spamalot' is a reference to King Arthur's court of Camelot and to the famous spam song in Monty Python. It is set in the imagined past of Arthurian legend, with King Arthur assembling his Knights of the Round Table and being given a quest for the Holy Grail. This storyline resembles that of the film from which it proclaims it has been "lovingly ripped off", although it does not follow it completely by any means.
The film was rather low-budget and the staging of this show reflects that. It looks good and has a modern twist and the costumes and scenery are all well-made and attractive, while still referring back to the look of the film.
Phil Jupitus took the role of King Arthur. He is probably best known for his appearances on tv panel shows like 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks'. He is also a stand-up comedian and frontman for the Blockheads. While not quite fitting the image of Arthur to my mind, he did a sterling job and his comic timing, as you would expect, was impeccable. His dancing was minimal and wasn't exactly sprightly, but blended well into the ensemble.
A real gift to the show was Todd Carty as Patsy. Carty is a face most people might recognise from 'EastEnders' and 'The Bill', although for me I remember him fondly from his role as Tucker in 'Grange Hill' as a youngster and in the spin-off 'Tucker's Luck'. He made a great Patsy, put-upon and degraded, wielding his coconuts with aplomb.
The Lady of the Lake was Jodi Prenger, winner of 2008's 'I'd do Anything' tv talent show. She is a great performer and sang wonderfully. She was also very comical with her (deliberate) mugging & over-acting very suited to the Monty Python-style of the show.
The rest of the cast were spot-on too. The actor playing Lancelot in particular stood out.
We really enjoyed the production: it started well with the fish-slapping dance and it just kept us laughing throughout. The songs were fun and funny, although the ones that we hadn't heard before in various Python films or programmes were not particularly memorable. Nearly all the best bits of the movie are incorporated into the stage-show, from the Knights who say Ni to the mysterious enchanter, Tim.
*** Conclusion ***
Python fans will absolutely love this show.
For people who don't know Python, it is genuinely funny stuff so it should work for them. That said, they may feel a little out of the loop when the knowing audience around them burst into applause/laughter at the *start* of scenes!
It was a great night out and I'd recommend it thoroughly.
Summary: Great night out for Python-lovers especially