Sunderland Empire, Sunderland: Autumn 2017
Review by Miriam Atkinson
Spamalot is a quirky musical based on the popular film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The play follows King Arthur and his trusty servant Patsy as they travel the land in an attempt to find knights (or men who would be interested in volunteering to be knights) in order to fill the seats at the round table. Once Arthur has gathered enough knights they are given a quest: to find the Holy Grail.
The play is full of laughs whether it be visual gags, such as Arthur being unable to move until Pasty taps two coconuts together to mimic the sound of the horse’s hoofs as they travel, clever lyrics or the modern references inserted into songs such as: ‘You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz’. The positive reaction from the audience was clear to see throughout the play. A particularly special moment was when many of the audience spontaneously sang and whistled along to Spamalot’s best known song: ‘Always Look On the Bright Side of Life’.
One of the charms of this Arthurian parody is that it is not afraid to make fun of itself and includes deliberate mistakes, much to the delight of the audience. A highlight was the encounter with Tim the Enchanter, to whom Arthur politely ignores that the former is standing on a box to make himself appear more intimidating after the character bustles onto the stage late to the scene.
As Spamalot progresses it begins to break the fourth wall and the characters become increasingly aware that they are in a musical. An example of this comes from my favourite character – the Lady of the Lake, played brilliantly by Sarah Harlington. In Act 2 the Lady of the Lake comes on stage in her suitably elaborate dressing gown to perform: ‘Whatever Happened To My Part’, lamenting that she has had nothing to do so far in Act 2 while instead the boys get to run around the stage being silly. Also Harlington’s facial expressions whenever the Lady exasperatedly has to guide Arthur and the knights were perfect throughout the night.
Having never seen Spamalot before I was surprised and impressed by the contrasting styles of sets the play managed to transition between. From the plain, gloomy lands of England to the glitzy Vegas casino inspired Camelot. Another great contrast was the spooky forest home to the brilliantly ridiculous Knights Who Say Ni, followed by a disco routine in Prince Herbert’s chambers for ‘His Name is Lancelot’.
Spamalot made for a fantastic evening of pure fun. It is a great play for family members of all ages and is one I hope to see again in the future.
*This review was originally published in the online magazine Cuckoo Review in October 2017*