Ludicrous, silly, daft and deliciously, wickedly funny

Todd Carty and Phill Jupitus as loyal serf Patsy and King Arthur on their quest for the Holy Grail

Monty Python's Spamalot

Wolverhampton Grand

*****

SPAMALOT is probably the most half-baked, stupid, juvenile, absurd musical ever conceived but it is gloriously, uproariously funny.

Eric Idle and John Du Prez have taken (nicked) Monty Python and the Holy Grail and turned it into a musical with romantic ballads such as He is not dead yet – a sort of nearly plague victim's lament.

Idle's big hit, the funeral and fans of relegated football teams' favourite, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, is in there as are three very clever numbers The Song That Goes Like This, The Diva's Lament and I'm All Alone – the first two now regulars in amateur pantomimes.

The show was in the Midlands, at The New Alexander Theatre, in December and has seen a couple of personnel changes with Phill Jupitus taking over from Matthew Kelly as King Arthur and Jessica Martin has put on her snorkel and flippers to replace Jodie Prenger as the Lady of the Lake.

The contrast between the ladies is less distinct. Both have fine voices and for their two big numbers and both had that mischievous sense of fun.

The reign of the kings has more contrast. Kelly was excellent and so too in his own way is Jupitus. Kelly is a big man and a classical actor giving the role a certain gravitas as well as a wealth of laughs.

Jupitus has the stand-up's inbuilt timing creating extra laughs merely with pauses along with a few glances, shakes of the head and even the removal of his glasses – and when did Arthur start smoking a pipe. That bit was missing in the history books. He underplays the role to give Arthur the hunted look of a thwarted chartered accountant.

Patsy and King Arthur discover a bit of glamour in the kingdom with Jessica Martin as the Lady of the Lake complete with a Holy Grail

Still there is EastEnders star Todd Carty who reves in the role of Patsy, the King's scruffy, grubby, put upon manservant - a sort of Baldrick with an extra brain cell.

The rest of the cast play the entire population of Britain . . . and France . . . between them with Simon Lipkin superb as the gruff Northern father of Prince(ss) Herbert, the Black (it's just a flesh wound) Knight and ‘is my hair all right' Sir Dennis Galahad.

David Langham is the nerdy historian who sets the scene, Prince(ss) Herbert, the Barry Manilow lookalike minstrel and the reluctant corpse, Not Dead Fred in a remarkably talented quartet of performances.

Graham MacDuff gives us Sir Lancelot, the French Taunter, the Knight of Ni and Tim the Enchanter while Robin Armstrong is Sir Bedevere, Dennis's Mother, Concorde the serf and a mind numbingly stupid guard with Samuel Holmes coming in as Sir Robin and the mayor of some village in Lapland . . . don't ask. 

Spamalot is about Arthur's quest for the Holy Grail, which on opening night was hidden under a seat in the stalls. Arthur and his knights ride around on imaginary horses, driven by half coconut shells, on a quest that takes them to French castles where they are almost fatally insulted, to very expensive forests and to Swamp Castle where Sir Lancelot can rescue a maiden(ish) in distress called Herbert.

There is a Black Knight who reckons losing both arms and legs in a sword fight (just flesh wounds) constitute a draw, killer rabbits, flying cows and the Holy Grenade of Antioch.

There are even ornithological debates on the carrying capacities of migrating sparrows and political discussions about whether a bint in a pond giving out swords and telling blokes they are king is a better system of Government then democratic elections – you don't get that in Les Mis!!!!!

There is not even a passing nod of acknowledgement to PC, some silly jokes and a few bits of filth scattered innocently Donald McGill-like among the lines of the script.

It is all very English and remarkably daft. We seem to delight preserving the spirit of schoolboy and undergraduate humour from cradle to grave. This is a fine heir to The Goon Show, probably the first of the English lunatic school of surreal comedy as well as being great family fun. Anyone who fails to laugh should really book an appointment with an undertaker. To 30-04-11

Roger Clarke 

And now for something completely different

*****

THIS mad musical won the Tony Award in 2005, and it is still the funniest show in town. If you don't laugh from start to finish, see your doctor.

Said to have been ripped off from Monty Python and the Holy Grail by Eric Idle and John Du Prez, it is a non-stop riot of British humour at its best.

Where else could you see our King Arthur riding into action - on foot - accompanied by his grubby manservant playing clip-clop on two half coconut shells; or the French troops (above) abusing our brave monarch with an unusually played trumpet; or even a Black Knight having his arms and legs chopped off and coolly dismissing it as "a flesh wound".

Oh, and of course, there's the super-hit song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life at the start of Act II and the finale, with just about everyone in the audience joining in.

I saw the show for the first time at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham a while back, and I enjoyed it even more this time. Don't ask me why.

Phill Jupitus has now replaced the brilliant Matthew Kelly as King Arthur and Jessica Martin has taken over from Jodie Prenger as the Lady of the Lake. Both are excellent, and the courage of the Knights of the Round Table is . . . different, particularly when they face the Killer Rabbit.

Could anyone else play King Arthur's overloaded and under-appreciated sidekick, Patsy, with such humour as Todd Carty? I doubt it. Terrific performances, too, from David Langham as Prince Herbert, Not Dead Fred (and many more), Simon Lipkin (Sir Galahad), Graham MacDuff (Sir Lancelot), Robin Armstrong (Sir Bedevere) and Samuel Holmes (Sir Robin).

Some other cracking songs turn up throughout, like He is Not Dead Yet and The Song That Goes Like This.

Directed by Christopher Luscombe with Dean Austin's musical direction, this Spamalot of Camelot runs to Saturday night 30.04.11

Paul Marston

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