Sarah Harlington as the Lady of the Lake with Bob Harms as dashing King Arthur


The New Alexandra Theatre


Monty Python’s last TV show was in 1974. The anarchic ground-breaking run of British silliness, changed the landscape of humour globally.

The team’s venture into feature films enabled longer story based sketches and so Monty Python and the Holy Grail came into being.

After its success, Eric Idle wrote Spamalot, almost in secret from the other team members, but rather than scorn the idea they all fully approved of it, dubbing it one of the silliest things ever.

The musical has seen several professional tours over the last twelve years and although it is possibly one of Python’s most enduring and profitable spin-offs, the audience for it seems to be dwindling. Possibly the reason for this is that it helps to know about Python’s humour and the show certainly provides a genuine flavour of that. In the hands of anyone other than this excellent professional cast the whole thing might just be nothing more than well, silly.

Idle’s vision fused the premise of the Holy Grail film and its Arthurian tale with the glamour of a sequinned Broadway show. The result is very much in the mould of Mel Brookes’ The Producers with the preposterous idea that Knights of the Round Table are, amongst other things, tasked on their quest for the Holy Grail, to stage a musical.

Although Spamalot reflects the Python institution it is clear that that the original cast could never have delivered it themselves. It’s a polished and well performed production that requires theatre abilities way above the skill set that the talented original team possessed.

Even so at times it feels like Idle, Cleese, Palin, Gilliam, Jones and Chapman are present as the cast add a flavour of them, rather than mimic at times during the show.

Powerful voice

Throughout there are some well produced dance routines and outstanding vocals that turn the ridiculous songs into genuine show stoppers. Sarah Harlington as the Lady of the Lake seemed to embody just about every diva that is or has ever been from Judy Garland to Beyonce with her powerful and versatile voice.

She added a great deal of physical humour to her character, making the role her own. Bob Harms plays the dashing King Arthur and if it was not for his belief and commitment in his part everything he did would have seemed ridiculous.

His timing, especially in The Song I’m all Alone, which pretty much has all the cast out from the dressing rooms and the stage hands in it too, is what makes it all work.

Ably assisted with horse hoof coconuts by his manservant Patsy played by Rhys Owen, the pair hoofed it up all night. The delivery of the most memorable song of the production Always Look on the bright side of Life came down to  Rhys and it never fails to capture the ironic feel good factor of Pythons original crazy style.

There are a few up dates of the songs and humour with the odd appearance of Trump and Harry Potter but nothing that detracts from the premise of the original film.  

Monty Python was always surreal and this transition onto the stage in a musical theatre form is exactly what Python was all about. It’s mad to watch it play out though and must have been even crazier to perform it and that’s a fact that might have occurred to many the cast during the production. When you have Knights dressed in Chainmail dancing with Las Vegas showgirls there must have been moments when everyone was taking reality checks.

Ironically, at poking fun at the glamour of a Broadway show it actually celebrates it at the same time, for as a musical it’s as entertaining as anything you will see and that again is very much down to the excellent cast and individual performances.

Spamalot remains a childish romp of ridicule, but an evening of light hearted fun. For those seeking the nostalgia of the original series then you won’t be disappointed. For everyone else if you don’t take it seriously, leave your sensibility and adult head at home and look on the bright side, then you will enjoy every minute. To 07-10-17

Jeff Grant


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