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REVIEW: Spamalot at Sunderland Empire

Looking At The Bright Side Of Life…

Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 14th October 2017

It might be 12 years since Spamalot won a Tony Award for the best new musical but it still feels fresh. I must confess at loving Monty Python and it is on that basis that I review the musical based upon the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

King Arthur (Bob Harms), King of the Britons, is on the hunt for knights to join him around the Round Table at Camelot. He is assisted by his faithful assistant Patsy (Rhys Owen) who has a pair of coconuts. They meet up with Sir Robin (Stephen Arden) as he collects the dead, and Sir Lancelot (Johnathan Tweedie) as he tries to dispose of someone who is not yet dead. King Arthur also meets Dennis Galahad (Norton James) who is a republican who doesn’t believe in an unelected monarch. King Arthur persuades him to join him by showing him the Lady of the Lake (Sarah Harlington), the lady who declared him king. Dennis then agrees to go to Camelot and is promptly knighted. At Camelot Arthur is given a quest - find the Holy Grail, and hence the adventure begins properly.
The show is full of puns and great laughs. The characteristics of each knight is largely a stereotype and a source of jokes, Arthur is mean to Patsy and that too is a source of amusement. Add in the lyrics to the songs the Lady of the Lake sings which satirise the format of musicals and have a heady mix of light hearted moments.  Original Python Eric Idle is responsible for a sharply observed script. The combination of intelligent direction by Daniel Buckroyd and a cast who have both great timing and are clearly enjoying themselves adds up to a very good evening’s entertainment.

There was even a very brief appearance by Smooth Radio’s Breakfast host Steve Colman as ‘Sir Not Actually Appearing In This Show.’ Steve is a big supporter of theatre in the region and it was great to seen him tread the boards.

The other element which helps make this show work are the songs. Yes, Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life from Life of Brian puts a couple of appearances in but this is no jukebox musical. You have music, by Eric Idle and John du Prez, which follows the narrative and the characters - such as Find Your Grail and Here You Are. You also the big production number such as Whatever Happened To My Part was Sarah Harlington comfortably managed with. Musical director Dean McDermott had to keep the band in sync with the action as the fourth wall was removed.

There has been some updating too to keep the whole thing fresh. The song You Won’t Succeed In Showbiz has been thoroughly reworked. Whilst less offensive, it hasn’t lost its message or sense of humour.

Spamalot was a light-hearted poke at the Arthurian legend. An enthusiastic ensemble delivered an entertaining performance. Even though we’ve seen it a few times, we don’t tire of the jokes and this production is as good as any we’ve seen. Fans of Monty Python are in for a treat.

Review by Stephen Oliver


Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or*calls cost up to 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

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