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New Theatre, Oxford

Firmly in the tradition of not only Month Python but the kind of satirical and surreal humour that made Spike Milligan famous, there is not really a lot to say about this music-theatre treat that you cannot imagine.  The show is, essentially, an extended Monty Python sketch based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It ain’t the movie and it is exceedingly theatrical in this incarnation! Except for the famous song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, this is not about memorable tunes or lyrics. This is about a kind of grown-up panto to tickle the silly bone and endless send-up of conventions of musical comedy and farce. I especially enjoyed the knight whose limbs are lopped off but still keeps going; almost all the preposterous quips; and the attempt at a small but sexy set of chorus girls. The band played with real panache and rhythm; and the sets and costumes were bright cartoons come to life. If David Cameron keeps banging on about Englishness, I think maybe we should send him to see this touring production of Spamalot as a reference point as it seems to me to be about a quintessentially English approach to humour and entertainment that goes back to Will Hay and Music Hall, to Beyond the Fringe and, of course, Monty Pyton’s Flying Circus. It is also unashamedly and happily camp! Joe Pasquale captures just the right tone and gestures as King Arthur; Todd Carty is lugubriously charming throughout as Patsy; and Sarah Earnshaw shows that she is not only sexy and funny but also that she has a very fine voice that could probably challenge Ethel Merman’s.

The entire cast is obviously having a terrific time and deserves much praise not only for their non-stop energy but for their real sense of working as an ensemble – and, of course, this being live theatre and the kind of show it is, you are going to get quips and crack-ups that are different with each performance. The audience was clearly having a rip-roaring time throughout and join in song when invited. If you hate Monty Python or this kind of satiric, silly British humour, then this is not a show for you. On the other hand, I found this show to be a real pick-me-up and if you are in the right mood, I recommend you see it if it plays near you if your taste runs to this kind of thing. Mine does so I found it to be a lot of fun!

  • Musical
  • Book and Lyrics by Eric Idle
  • Music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle
  • Directed by Christopher Luscombe
  • Cast includes: Joe Pasquale, Sarah Earnshaw, Todd Carty, Richard Meek, Jamie Tyler with Hugh Bonneville as God
  • New Theatre, Oxford
  • Until 14th February 2015 and touring until June
  • Review by Mel Cooper
  • 10 February 2015

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Canadian-born Mel Cooper first came to the UK to study English Literature at Oxford University and stayed. He was captivated by the culture and history of Britain, which he found to be a welcoming and tolerant country. After working in highly illustrated, non-fiction publishing for over a decade, he founded and edited the magazine Opera Now. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting, a maker of audio shows and arts critic for several airlines, and as one of the team that started Britain’s first commercial classical music radio station, Classic FM, on which he was both a classical music DJ and creator and presenter of shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. Throughout this period, he also lectured in music and literature in London and Oxford and published short stories in Canada. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature. His first novel has just been published as an e-book. The title is City of Dreams. It is the first volume of a projected saga called The Dream Bearers. You can find the Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

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