Spamalot's a Delight
25th January 2018
For something completely different, there’s the production of Spamalot running at CVC this week. This pacey performance dances through its quest for a grail. With plenty to enjoy for fans of Python’s dialogue the show really shines for its ensemble qualities. There are stunning contributions left, right, and centre stage. Whether from singers or dancers or musicians, it’s a busy dynamism everywhere. The Spamalot storyline shuffles in the well-known scenes from the source film but blended with a cast trying to produce a musical. What is perfectly clear is how the show unashamedly relishes in every musical theatre cliché possible, from self-referential dialogue to song selection, to breaking the fourth wall. It’s arguably the most self-aware musical to grace the Comberton stage.
The adventure centres around King Arthur, played by the likeable and indefatigable Ollie Payne, who goes on a quest to find some loyal knights, a grail, and put on a musical. While about these tasks, he is not alone. Tim Easy’s Patsy is the perfect side-kick with plenty of knowing smiles as well as helpful suggestions and he’s not bad banging coconut shells either. The leading ‘Lady of the Lake’ (played alternately by Chloe Hall and Imogen Lewis) floats about with grace and many a loving line for Arthur. Owen Shields and Isobel Norman convey energetic loyalty and offer plenty of quips for the cause as Galahad and Bedevere. The impetuous and sometimes violent Lancelot (Rhys Edmunds) reveals some amusing indecisiveness in matters pertaining to gender. A wonderful surprise moment was the Lancelot - dance-a-lot sequence complete with Vegas Cabaret interlude. Oli Wilkinson, as Sir Robin, provides plenty of laughs and delivers a fantastic rendition of ‘You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz’. Zac Bowyer (Prince Herbert) delivers his role with panache and a most amusing sense of ‘demure confidence.’ Prince Herbert’s opportunistic father (Toby Robson) captures the original film’s humour with ease. While Theo Lancaster offers great range and comic timing as the unfortunate Fred. There are so many other notable cameos that it’s impossible to comment on all of them, but include: Elliott Noble (the Historian), Jayden Yeomans (The Black Knight), Conor Waldock (The Knight that says Ni), Alex Zaoui (Tim the Enchanter), Louise Blandford (Sir Bors and rabbit fodder), Nick Mobin (Concorde), Ben Roberts (Galahad’s mum), Evy Payne (Brother Maynard).
The real driver of the show might be the dancing. Everyone’s movement contributes to the fun and games, but the Principal Chorus are especially brilliant. They lift scenes, support the humour, and are clinically accomplished across a range of dance styles. Their jaunty japes really elevate the mood. The Ensemble, equally impressive, add depth and richness in their supporting function. An ebullient orchestra packed with student talent plays with joyous celebration and cheeky irreverence. Clever sound effects and amusing screen projections add further depth and contrast to the work of the performers. The set is minimal and reminds one of two rooks left standing on an empty chessboard leave space for staging that is balanced and vibrant. Grenades, curtains, horse-riding all have their place, as do long-stemmed flowers wielded with more menace than some of the sword play! Costuming, whether shades of peasant brown or white-cloaked knights (with crests true to the film), is effective and always willing to flash a departure from the medieval setting. In fact the whole musical is unashamedly anachronistic.
Without doubt, the production will leave audiences feeling jubilant. With many memorable hits from the Python repertoire and some brilliant Broadway spoofs, there are songs for everyone.
Overall this exuberant production will leave you feeling joyful and probably singing along with the bouncing grail. Tickets are still available for each performance in advance or you can pay on the night.
Review by Mike Ryall, English Dept