Spamalot, the musical adapted by Eric Idle and John Du Prez from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, has been a permanent fixture in London’s West End, and after a successful run at The Harold Pinter Theatre, can now can be seen at The Playhouse starring DCI Banks himself Steven Tompkinson as King Arthur.
The original Spamalot was a Broadway production by Mike Nichols, “lovingly ripped off from Monty Python and the Holy Grail,”, and what I saw was a new updated version of the mad musical extravaganza. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, the show is packed full of topical jokes including Jedward, Susan Boyle and Boris Johnson even makes a brief appearance (well not really…) Obviously Spamalot is a very silly show, with some naughty and also close-to-the-bone humour – I particularly enjoyed the fluffy killer rabbit, the dancing corpses, and a dual that resulted in major loss of limbs!
Steven Tompkinson as King Arthur
An appearance by Eric Idle (who has replaced John Cleese) as the Voice of God – a rather naughty, foul-mouthed God via a big video screen on stage was a highlight, as was the extremely talented Anna-Jane Casey as the Lady of the Lake. Her voice is exceptional, and she is brilliantly expressive proving her comedy chops with numbers like “The Song That Goes Like This”, and in the second act giving a hilarious turn with “Whatever Happened to My Part?”
Tompkinson, known best on our television screens (Wild At Heart, DCI Banks), is by no means a strong singer, and it is quite clear that he is being held up by his fabulously talented supporting and ensemble cast. He is however, a terrific actor, so it didn’t particularly matter about the standard of his voice. It did make me think about the star driven nature of the West End though. If Tompkinson had to audition for the role as an’ unknown’, I doubt he would get it! The overall talent of the supporting cast is phenomenal – real triple threats, and I do think that it is sad that we need TV stars in our musicals in order to put bums on seats. The talent of these musical theatre actors should be enough. That aside, Tompkinson makes for a perfectly decent King Arthur, and it is ridiculous just how amusing the riding of imaginary horses is (and remains throughout) while Patsy, played by former Eastender Todd Carty (who I didn’t see, but his understudy Michael Burgen was truly wonderful) bangs on coconut shells for hooves.
This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I took my auntie, and we both had a super evening with plenty of laughs. And we happily sang along “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life…” while dancing in the aisles at the end. A great night out this festive season!
Performance times: Monday – Saturday at 8.00pm, Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm
THE PLAYHOUSE THEATRE, Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5DE
Tickets: £15 – £65. ON SALE NOW
Running time: 2 hours – this one doesn’t drag on!
Box Office: 0844 871 7627 | www.spamalot2012.co.uk