‘Spamalot’, the latest freewheeling production from the Royal Hippodrome, shouldn’t work. Think about it. A zany musical based on all-time comedy classic ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ , complete with power ballads and satirical jabs at Broadway?
Sure, the book and lyrics are written by founding member Eric Idle, but whether Python’s absurdism can still fizz inside a rigid verse-chorus structure is another matter entirely.
Well, fear not. The songs pop like uncorked bottles of shaken bubbly. Classic debates over the weight-ratios of migrating African swallows are revitalised by a fantastic cast of local players who relish every ludicrous gag and obscene gesture.
The greatest achievement of Jade Power’s breathless direction is that you never feel you’re watching reheated leftovers of a 1975 film. The result is at once exhilaratingly silly and entirely its own beast , offering many fun surprises for the disciples who recite the original sketches like holy writ.
Take Michael Shepherd’s hilariously macho Lancelot, who discovers his true self after rescuing a fey prince, climaxing in a vibrant dance number best described as ‘Arthurian Pride’. Tania De Silva is a show-stopping Lady of the Lake, reimagined here as an aquatic soul goddess in the tradition of Cher. Her belting performance of Whatever Happened to My Part is a high-wire act of wit and outrage that Silva pulls off with unforgettable style.
The actors are matched by the imaginative stagecraft. Megan Stanfield’s saturated lighting transports us into Python’s demented legend, while Pippa Broadway’s madcap choreography is a joy to watch. This is a summertime medicine for our uncertain times, a warming reminder that quality light entertainment is nowhere near dead yet.
By Aaron Loose