There are some musicals out there, dear Wanderers, that are just meant to be downright silly and make you laugh and have a fun few hours. The one that I’m looking at is … exactly one of those musicals, and from the various times I have had the luck to see it – thank you national tours and taking advantage of offers – it has never failed to make me laugh. I am talking about Monty Python’s Spamalot, which is lovingly ripped off from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. By the same creators, so… Yeah, there’s that.
Thing to note here: Monty Python are – I say are because they are due to reunite this year for a special show – a British comedy troupe best known for their more … out there humour. At least, for the time period in which it was created. And even today for a few of the skits. The humour was always sharp, clever, and, as a general rule, always satirical. The Holy Grail film is actually noted not only for being one of the most hilarious films about Arthurian legend, but also one of the most accurate, thanks to one of the team – Terry Jones – being an Arthurian scholar.
Spamalot’s plot – for there is one, just not much of one – is introduced to the audience by means of a historian. We are in medieval England, following King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table – including Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Show – on their quest to find Camelot. Which is a silly place, but they still go there. Actually, in the musical, Camelot is a lot more like a Las Vegas casino resort. So, understandably, God gets a bit fed up with them wasting their time, playing around in Camelot, and sets them on a proper quest: to find the Holy Grail. Throw in some French taunters, the Knights Who Say Ni, witch burnings – except not witch burnings, the budget didn’t allow for them – and Tim the Enchanter, and well, you’ve got three hours of hilarity.
And yes, hilarity is the only word to use. In typical Python style, the humour of the show comes from twisting the story just slightly, and pointing out when this is done in a rather laconic sense. Except saying that doesn’t really describe it all that well, and it is actually hard for me to explain just how funny this show is with words. So I’ll try to describe the music instead. The music is … ridiculously catchy, and of course, even though it’s from Life of Brian, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is in the show. How could it not be? Everyone knows that song. Why shouldn’t they? It’s a brilliant little song and –
[ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, GET ON WITH IT]
… Sorry, Monty Python’s version of God who sounds a lot like John Cleese. (Or Eric Idle if you saw the show on tour.) As I’ve explained in a roundabout way previously, the show is a loving send-up of the traditional Arthurian legend, with some slight twists and changes here and there for the sake of adapting to the stage, and keeping the humour fresh and relevant to a modern audience. Interestingly, not much of the latter needed to be done, and only really appears in the sections of the show that allow for ad-libbing. Which are hilarious. Of course. I really shouldn’t have to state it, but state it I shall, for three is the number you count to, four is right out, five is … Sorry, I’ll stop quoting the show. Or the film. I like both.
So, yes, what else to say? Well, the characters are all larger than life, as can be expected really. King Arthur, in UK productions, is usually played by some famous actor or comedian – I was lucky enough to see Peter Davison in the role the first time I ever saw the show. However, his most commonly remembered performer is Tim Curry, who is featured on the Broadway Cast Recording album. I … never actually got the chance to see Tim Curry in the role, apart from televised performances such as the Royal Variety Show, but from all reports he was really brilliant.
Actually, ‘really brilliant’ is the best way to sum up this show. And I’m not just saying that, it genuinely is really brilliant. The humour is sharp, the performers always put in a great turn, and there’s just this overall feel of joy to the show.
I really recommend seeing it, if you ever get the chance.
I’d give this show 4 out of 5, because Monty Python isn’t for everyone, but this is a really funny show.
Z McAspurren (Whistle if you know it – Always look on the bright side of life!)