The bright side of laughter

Something fischy! Let your imagination drift and you easilt beleive you were in a Finnish village somewhere in mediaeval England schlapping you neightbour with a fisch

Spamalot

The New Alexandra Theatre

****

IF the Olympics had a category for silliest musical then we would already have a gold medal banker for London 2012. This is the daftest show around bar none.

For those who have never gazed upon the bright side of life in the flesh, so to speak, its is a (lovingly) ripped off musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail written by Eric Idle and John Du Prez.

It also seems to be turning into the Todd Carty pension plan as the former Grange Hill and EastEnders actor appears to have become a permanent fixture as King Arthur's loyal keeper of the royal horses hooves sounds and general royal pack horse, Patsy.

But when he is so good in the role why change it? He has cornered the market on downtrodden peasants and plays a mean coconut shell so what more could you ask for.

Coconut shells you might well ask? Coconuts are much cheaper to keep and take up much less room than a real horse and there are no vet's bills.

Patsy's lord and master this time around is Leamington Spa's  West End actor Steven Pacey.

The role of Arthur, has been played by the likes of Matthew Kelly, who was holding court on the last visit to the Alex and Phil Jupitas who wore the crown on its last Midland visit and new monarch Spacey adds a regal, in the very loosest sense of the word, air to proceedings showing a nice sense of timing and comedy as our very British hero.

Todd Carty as Patsy, the Keeper of the Royal Coconuts - a very supportive role

Adding an air of glamour, mystery and pretty well anything else that needs adding, is Bonnie Langford as the Lady of the Lake. She can certainly belt out a song when it comes to heart-rending ballads such as the touching The Song That Goes Like This or the tragic The Diva's Lament.

As in the film the rest of the cast have to multi task, with Robin Armstrong as Sir Bedevere, among others, Rob Delaney as Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Lancelot etc., Kit Orton as Sir Lancelot etc., Adam Ellis as Price Herbert., and Jon Robyns as Sir Dennis Galahad and anyone we have left out. Five cast and 18 roles.

These include the Knights who say Ni, whose primary purpose appears to be to see if they can corpse Steven Pacey with laughter, dancing girls, a killer rabbit, God, an enchanter called Tim and then there are the ensemble who give us Finnish peasants with the famed Fisch Schlapping Dance, Bible bashing monks, plague victims, a dancing nun and chorus amid the big budget special effects of a flying cow and the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

It is also educational with a discussion on the wing speed and coconut carrying capacity of migrating swallows.

The musical numbers are deep and thoughtful such as the plague ballad Not Dead Fred's I am not dead yet or Arthur's I'm All Alone with full cast, crew, chorus and stage hands.

Then we have the upbeat Manilow-style disco number His Name is Lancelot when Sir Launcelot is revealed as being Gay – Eric Idle, Monty Python and Spamalot do not do PC incidentally.

There is even audience participation when the Holy Grail is found, with a helping hand from God, beneath the seat of an audience member, in this case Irene Hales, who is dragged on stage to be thanked and serenaded and leaves with a scroll, small present and a Polaroid picture of her night as a star.

The Knights of the Round Table formation dancing team

The end also sees a sing-along, complete with drop down words, for a reprise of Britain's favourite funeral ditty, honest, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, sung earlier by Patsy and Arthur as they hunted for a shrubbery – don't ask – so they could continue their quest for the Holy Grail.

Providing the music is musical director Tony Castro and an excellent seven piece band while direction is by Christopher Luscombe.

The historical accuracy of last week's Alex production, Anne Boleyn, might have been debateable, this is more . . . diabolical, but it is great fun from beginning to end, awash with jokes and wit as well as taking affectionate digs at all manner of Broadway and West End musicals.

If you don't laugh at this then you really should see a doctor . . . or an undertaker . . . altogether now, always look on the bright side  . . . . To 31-03-12

Roger Clarke

And from the bright side of life . . .

****

IF ever one song perfectly suited a comedy musical like this it has to be Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Eric Idle's crackpot version of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table searching for the Holy Grail is a laugh-a-minute, overflowing with humour and lively music.

So when the panto-style song sheet is lowered on stage at the finale, just about everyone in the audience joins the terrific cast in belting out that famous number...and they probably hummed it on the way home, too.

Zoes naughty French persons who try to wreck ze show

Leamington Spa-born Steven Pacey, star of many West End and TV shows, sparkles as King Arthur in a king-sized crown, galloping on stage to hoofbeats created by his scruffy servant Patsy with the help of two half coconut shells.

Todd Carty, a hit on ITV's Dancing on Ice, is back as the loyal, overloaded Patsy, delivering some remarkable expressions on that well worn face, especially when the king is singing I'm All Alone.

A lovely performance, too, from Bonnie Langford as the Lady of the Lake, and there are hilarious scenes with the song I'm Not dead Yet, the rude raid on the  French castle, and the sword fight in which King Arthur lops off the arms and legs of the Black Knight who still insists the scrap is halved.

Eventually the Grail is discovered in row D of the stalls, leading to one audience member, Irene Hales, having to go on stage to celebrate with the King and his Knights on opening night.

To 31.03.12. Don't miss it.

Paul Marston

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