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I have always disliked musicals. I think the last time I went to The Mayflower was back in 1996 to see The Buddy Holly Story so I’m hardly repeat business but after tonight’s performance that might change.

I’m a huge Monty Python fan, seriously a proper anorak. I grew up watching and laughing at Monty Python with my Dad. So when given the opportunity to watch the ‘hit musical lovingly ripped off from Monty Python and The Holy Grail’ then it seemed right to take him.

We both loved it, and that’s your first clue, Spamalot appeals to a wide age range. I was sceptical at first (BELIEVE ME), but as soon as I saw the chanting monks walk on stage reconstructing a genuine sketch from the film with precise comic timing? I was already laughing. Already waiting for the next one. Instantly I realised there was going to be lots of decent quality Pythonesque (check your dictionary) bits to keep me entertained.

That is more than enough for any loyal Python fan. The stage backdrops were bright, vivid and simplistic, sufficiently in the spirit of Terry Gilliam’s wackiness with enough continuity to carry the plot.

Joe Pasquale Solo shot 3
Joe Pasquale Solo shot

 

It wasn’t until halfway through the ‘Bring out Your Dead’ skit (excellently replayed by Richard Kent and Jamie Tyler) that I noticed the turbine wind fan painted onto the backdrop next to the medieval castle. There is plenty more Python stuff to come, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it; as guessing which sketches made the cut was half the fun.

High praise and credit must be given to Kent again for his ‘French Taunter’ performance with perhaps the first extended flatulence based improv I have ever seen.

Richard Meek’s Black Knight and Josh Wilmott’s Mrs Galahad really captured the essence of their original characters.

It actually turned out that the Pythonesque spirit was there throughout the whole production: trademark Python moves carried over into the new, additional material with ad-libbed jokes in between. They did bits from the film for sure but what they did with them that seemed natural, almost like deleted scenes from the original film.

Spamalot cast L to R Sarah Earnshaw Todd Carty Joe Pasquale Richard Astbury
Spamalot cast L to R Sarah Earnshaw Todd Carty Joe Pasquale Richard Astbury

An instant example springs to mind with Sarah Earnshaw’s ‘Lady of the Lakes’ solo number in the second act (What an amazing vocal range Sarah has). To divulge any more examples would ruin the experience for you all but rest assured, it was surreal and made me laugh in a truly Pythonesque manner.

The second act took on a more free-range direction and I feel it was more for regular musical fans, with a strong departure from the original film storyline but in the end, it all reminded you that this is LIVE THEATRE.

Todd Carty Headshot
Todd Carty Headshot

Although it was a great supporting cast and multi-talented ensemble, hats off to the impeccable timing of Joe Pasquale who really put some comic pedigree behind the production. The comic timing between Joe and Todd Carty was the bread and butter at times and there was an excellent atmosphere on this opening night. Some of it I still can’t decide if it was scripted or not. I highly recommend the musical for the comedy content alone.

And what did my dad think of the show?

“Funny, right amount of time duration, not boring, good entertainment” – Steve Maclean

Actually, I think for a musical they really balanced it well for both Musical and Python fans alike. There were some great foot-tapping show stoppers onboard (all ensemble members were great but Abigail Climer, Inez Mackenzie and Holly Easterbrook most noticeable in those jawdropping costumes), choreography was interesting, original Python Eric Idle’s involvement was rewarding, not just for the freshly adapted songs but personal endorsement as he appeared in a pre-recorded cameo as ‘God’. Again stunning acting and comic timing from Joe P for some decent interaction.

The truth is, I have been wanting to see Spamalot for a while. It was in Southampton a few years back, and having not invested time in local arts and theatre, particularly the diverse and ever growing selection contained in The Mayflower’s coming attractions listing, I had missed another opportunity to enjoy myself with something original and on my doorstep. Luckily, this time I was given a second chance. I would encourage everyone at Support live entertainment as much as you can because it rewards countless times over, which now after a great performance at The Mayflower, I know I’ll be doing much more.

You’ve got until Sunday to see this at The Mayflower, book now and don’t miss this fantastic and comical performance.

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