Spamalot, “a new musical lovingly ripped off from Monty Python and the Holy Grail” by Eric Idle and John du Prez opened this Thursday at the Theatre Royal in Brighton. I love Monty Python and saw Spamalot several times in the West End, so I was looking forward to seeing finally seeing the touring production.
It’s hard to not compare it to the West End production. It took me a while to get used to the very bright and colourful sets and costumes that looked very panto-y. The cast is also a lot smaller with only four ensemble members and therefore some scenes have either been shortened (Run Away) or look a bit empty on stage (pretty much all ensemble scenes), though I don’t think it’s obvious if you’ve never seen another production.
Marcus Brigstocke as King Arthur is a genius casting decision. He really nails the part and has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand in no time at all. Todd Carty as his faithful “horse” Patsy isn’t a great singer, but it didn’t really bother me with this part. Jodie Prenger as the Lady of the Lake has a surprisingly strong voice and her comic timing was spot on. Robin Armstrong gives a very strong performance as Sir Bedevere (who is now highly intelligent instead of flatulent), Dennis’ Mother, Concorde and other female roles including Susan Boyle. I really liked Jon Robyns as Sir Dennis Gallahad, but I thought his Black Knight and Prince Herbert’s Father were even better. Some of his funny lines fell a bit flat, but it was only his first performance. Graham MacDuff gave another amazing performance, he was hilarious in all of his parts, especially as the French Taunter, but of course also as Sir Lancelot, Knight of Ni and Tim the Enchanter. However, there were two people who stood out for me: Rob Delaney and Adam Ellis. Ellis’ Historian is very matter-of-fact, but also a bit camp, which makes his short scenes a joy to watch. His Prince Herbert is fabulous and his Not Dead Fred and Minstrel are hilarious. Delaney really is outstanding in all his roles, his Sir Robin is excellent. I’m not a fan of the new You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz, but he almost managed to make me like it (I have the cast recording, so I already knew it) and that says something. His comic timing is spot on, as are his facial expressions. Both have incredible stage presence and were great vocally. Tim Bonser, Rachel Knowles, Hannah Malekzad and Kit Orton play all the other minor parts and are wonderful, too!
Yes, this production is very downscaled, but it just goes to show that a great musical doesn’t need fancy sets etc. I enjoyed it very much, laughed a lot and I honestly think this cast is among the strongest I have seen.
Spamalot is on in Brighton until the 14th January 2012 and then embarks on its UK tour. Tour dates and ticket info can be found here.