Printable CopySPAMALOT
Marie Clark Musical Theatre
The Arts Theatre
Until 02 Jun 2018

Review by Anne Elk (Miss)

Marie Clark Musical Theatre’s production of “Spamalot” is a breezy and silly success. The cast’s infectious enthusiasm, the astute direction and the audience’s goodwill all combine to produce a delightfully entertaining night out.

“Spamalot” is based on the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, which revolves around King Arthur clomping around England in search of knights to join him, and then the quest for the Holy Grail. It is beautifully inane, frequently nonsensical and very funny. Eric Idle adapted the film, added some bits from well-known Python sketches, hired a composer, and gave us “Spamalot”.

The musical’s greatest strengths and weaknesses stem from the source material: the best-loved scenes from the film are greeted with whoops of familiarity (the audience kacks itself at the French Taunter, the Knights Who Say Ni, “Bring Out Your Dead”, and the Black Knight, for example), but some parts of the film simply don’t translate well to the stage. The Python comedic style was revolutionary: it was audacious and surreal and tore apart accepted notions of what comedy was. Python humour is now a treasured relic, an important historical moment when the tectonic plates of humour and performance shifted. But rehashing the movie and grabs of already endlessly-quoted sketches in a theatrical setting feels a little dated and strained. The genres sit together uneasily.

None of these reservations mattered to an animated audience of Python fans. The crowd eagerly sang along, called out and stage-whispered the well-known routines. The wonderful atmosphere of high silliness masked the fact that this is a pretty average musical. The music is derivative and forgettable, and it all goes on for far too long.

But this is an exceptionally fun production. Director Brian Godfrey has crafted a pacy and comical outing, which rolls along with effortless brio. Godfrey’s work with the principals and chorus is evident: the knights have perfect timing and are completely at ease with the material. Godfrey emphasizes the comedy with great effect. The creative team works well together: Ben Stefanoff’s orchestra is tuneful and precise; choreography by Rebekah Stonelaitken and Rachel Dow is exuberant, funny and perfectly pitched.

The cast is consistently amusing. Michael Butler’s King Arthur is charmingly befuddled and naïve. Ben Todd as Patsy (he of the clippity-clop coconuts) manages to be clever and dense simultaneously. The Knights are all impressive. There is excellent character work and lovely singing from both Buddy Dawson as the cowardly (Brave, Brave) Sir Robin and Sebastian Cooper as Sir Galahad. Jamie Wright as Sir Lancelot monopolizes the best classic Python moments (“A shrubbery!... That’s noooo ordinary rabbit… Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries”) with aplomb. Casmira Hambledon as the Lady of the Lake (a character who was not in the movie) demands attention every moment she’s on stage. She is funny, complex and committed. Her big solo, “Whatever Happened to My Part?” is magnificently sung and is the best song of the show.

Despite these star turns, the best moments of this show are the big company numbers: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (filched from “The Life of Brian” and sung by the whole audience) and “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway”. The chorus gives great to support to the principals.

This is a rousing night of fun for Python fans. Stop pining for the fjords and see the show.

Brian Godfrey and Jamie Wright are reviewers for the Adelaide Theatre Guide. Anne Elk (Miss) is a guest reviewer. She and John Wells have never been seen together in public.