Spamalot has been with us for twelve years now, standing the test of musical theatre time. As one of the most successful Monty Python spin-offs, the show gives opportunity for their extensive and adoring fanbase to revel in the iconic songs, jokes, characters and silliness that made Monty Python a comic institution. Much of the show is taken word for word from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, resulting in the gloriously reminiscent experience that comes from anticipating favourite gags.
Some of the show has changed over the years, not a great deal, but enough to bring it up to date: Donald Trump makes a fleeting appearance, as does Septa Unella from Game of Thrones (who is actually a more recognisable a character than her name might suggest). Taking the production to stage allowed the brilliant Eric Idle to add in lots of satire and send ups of theatrical and specifically musical theatre conventions and as you’d expect from a comedy genius, it’s very, very funny. There’s a joyful simplicity about it too – far less ostentatious than many other large scale shows and without any hint of pretension. It may be clever in its inception and creation, having been borne in the minds of intelligent men, but Spamalot is fully accessible to all, even those who have never seen a Python sketch. Highbrow has its place, but there’s a lot to be said for the kind of silliness that slaps a massive smile on your face and this does just that.
The cast are a strong bunch. Of course, you’re never going to find the unique brand of charisma and talent that was present with Idle, Cleese, Palin Gilliam, Jones and Chapman, but Bob Harms is strikingly good as King Arthur. Harms has fantastic comic timing, with the perfect blend of subtlety and ridiculousness and is a great singer to boot. None of the actors attempt crass impressions of the originals, but manage to evoke the essence of the comedy and characters while bringing an element of personal interpretation. Sarah Harlington belts out a variety of numbers as the Lady of the Lake, proving herself to have a powerful, beautiful, impressive and versatile voice. Her comic acting is highly entertaining too and she fits in perfectly with the Python style.
Spamalot is a whole lot of fun, there’s no doubt about that and anyone would be hard pushed not to enjoy it. Holy Grail devotees will not be disappointed and those who’ve never seen it can’t fail to be sucked in by the joyous cheeriness of it all. As the curtain falls on the gold, glitter and grails, we certainly go home looking on the bright side of life.
Spamalot runs at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, until Saturday 30th September.