Spamalot – Sunderland Empire Theatre (Evening Chronicle)

Of all the English Legends, the story of King Arthur and his quest for the Holy Grail seems to be the one which is loved most by script writers and novelists. His story has been told countless times through the history of film and theatre. Due to this most people have an idea of how the story is usually told. Enter Monty Python with their own unique and eccentric version of the legend. The film has since been lovingly ripped off and adapted as the musical Spamalot.

From the moment Arthur and Patsy enter the stage, upon their imaginary horses, clip-clopping to the sound of Patsy’s coconut-halves, the audience was in hysterics. It’s the first production I’ve been to where I have left the theatre and my sides ached from laughing, clutching my complimentary tin of Spam. The next surreal moment is never far away. From a character having his head eaten by a killer rabbit, to the song and dance number performed by Not Dead Fred and a group of corpses.  Hilarity ensues as the Knights get on the wrong side of the French. Also, fans of the black knight scene will be happy to hear that it is included in its entirety, and because of some clever production it looks superb.  I felt that The Diva’s Lament was the weakest of the musical numbers, being the only part of the show where the comedy felt forced. Whereas, The Song That Goes Like This, and its witty parody of over the top theatrical love songs hit the spot perfectly.

At first I was disappointed to find out that Phil Jupitus wasn’t available for his role as King Arthur, but this was soon forgotten. Graham Macduff never once felt like an understudy, he filled the role of the King perfectly. There were moments he reminded me of Rowan Atkinson in his role as Blackadder, and his comedic timing was stop on.  Todd Carty played the sad sack role of Patsy just as it should be, full of innocence with an unwavering loyalty to his master, providing the perfect foil for Arthur.

The wit is razor sharp, the characters are absurd and the comedy is unrelenting. It is triumph of aproduction, which has managed to translate a classic from film to musical. Keeping everything which made the film great intact, and adding some brilliant new songs.

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