Monty Python’s Spamalot is back in town. It is in a smaller venue than before but that is rather the making of this current version of the show, which plays on its intimacy to generate two hours of all-singing, all-dancing – and all-fish slapping – fun.
When Monty Python and the Holy Grail was made, the joke that the men galloped to the sound of coconuts derived from the budget not stretching to horses. It is therefore ironic that today the analysis of how those coconuts could have reached England in the first place when no swallow would ever be strong enough to carry them from Africa is still funny, but, believe us, it is! The show includes topical references to Boris Johnson and the Olympics, but is also a pastiche of the cheesy musical, and includes such numbers as The Song That Goes Like This and The Diva’s Lament, in which the Lady of the Lake curses that she has not been seen for half an act.
With the show written by Eric Idle and John Du Prez, the humour is pure Python, and perhaps like Monty Python itself, not all of it hits the mark. There might ultimately be no reason why mishearing the word grail for quail feels lame, while confusing alms with arms works a treat, but anyone who doubts there are many laughs to be got from messing up the words to Sister Susie Sitting In The Shoeshine Shop may soon have to think again.
Top of the strong cast comes Bonnie Langford, whose priceless facial expressions mark the Lady of the Lake out as a fading diva who is determined to show she still has what it takes. As King Arthur, Marcus Brigstocke has that rare ability to make it look as if he really is improvising in his reactions to the shenanigans going on all around.
Some may find the musical too flimsy, unstructured and senseless, but that is rather its point, and we felt that the entirely nonsensical He Is Not Dead Yet and Fisch Schlapping Song were even funnier than those numbers that occur once the show has started to acquire something of a plot.
And Spamalot may ultimately be more highbrow than we think! The French’s offence at receiving an empty wooden rabbit from the English is, after all, an inverted reference to Henry V when the Dauphin sends the King the insulting gift of tennis balls.
Until 9 September at the Harold Pinter Theatre with start times of 14.30 and 19.30. Marcus Brigstocke and John Culshaw share the role of King Arthur over the run. For tickets click here.