Review: Spamalot (Theatre Royal, Brighton, until Saturday, April 4)

Todd Carty as Patsy in Spamalot. Photo: Manuel Harlan
Todd Carty as Patsy in Spamalot. Photo: Manuel Harlan

What has the Monty Python team ever done for us? They only went and gave us the hilarious film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, lovingly ripped off in the hit after hit musical Spamalot.

You can’t keep a good show down and director Christopher Luscombe’s top-notch touring production is quite understandably doing the rounds again, with a great cast ensuring it is given the full Monty treatment.

The Eric Idle/John Du Prez musical never fails to entertain and if anything this revisited tour pulls out all the stops to make everything funnier than ever. The performances, the choreography, the singing – in fact every surreal moment – are first class and guaranteed to keep the Python aficionados happy and newcomers delighted (if not occasionally bemused).

All the firm favourites are there, from flying cows to legless black knights, from fisch-slapping Finns to offensive French guards, and from the killer rabbit to the shrubbery-seeking Knights who say Ni. Later on, what those knights NOW say makes for a breathtaking and side-splitting tour de force from the main knight of Ni and Joe Pasquale’s likeable King Arthur, whose expert comic timing and clear enjoyment of the role means he is seldom a smile away from corpsing or causing other cast members to lose it in a show packed with laughter.

It is, of course, all very silly indeed (you keep expecting the late Graham Chapman to appear and tell everyone to stop it at once, but we do get a film appearance from original Python Michael Palin as God, so that’s all right then), so it is to the credit of the entire company that they make such a fine job of it all, nobody ever taking themselves too seriously and ensuring that the spirit of the original remains fresh.

Most of the musical numbers are showstoppers in their own right. You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz, sung by Will Hawksworth as a brave and fey Sir Robin who seems so much at home in Brighton (!), has plenty of pantomimesque contemporary references and side-swipes (look out Jeremy Clarkson and Mary Berry!). Sarah Earnshaw steals her scenes as the Lady of the Lake with powerful versions of Find Your Grail, the bitter Diva’s Lament, and the super Song That Goes Like This, a duet with Richard Meek as a heroic Sir Dennis Galahad.

Todd Carty must have signed up for the part of the put-upon Patsy for life, but who can blame him when he gets to bang coconut shells together with such skill and sing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, which has the enthusiastic audience singing along from the first note.

There are plenty of excellent multi-role performances from most of the cast, including Jamie Tyler as a Lancelot on his own journey of discovery, the towering knight of Ni and the naughty French taunter; Richard Kent splendidly multi-tasking as Prince Herbert, the historian and Not Dead Fred; and Josh Wilmott almost out-Montying Terry Jones as Mrs Galahad among others.

Credit too to Hugh Durrant’s set and costume design, Jenny Arnold’s choreography, and Tony Castro’s musical supervision.

The legend of King Arthur and the knights of Camelot’s round table may have inspired numerous tales on stage and screen, but thanks to this high quality production Spamalot is sure to remain more of a hit than a myth.