11th July 2019
Shaftesbury Arts Centre
Type of Production
Barbara Arnold & Sophie Lester
Author: Sylvia Coates
It takes some skill to present a collection of ridiculous characters in absurd situations and still create a story which (somehow) makes sense, but the Director and MD achieved a truly entertaining show with ‘Spamalot’.
Entirely integral to the show, the band was well-controlled and not overpowering, with the audience appreciating every moment from the (intentionally) wonky brass section in the overture, until the very last moment of the exit music, which many stayed to enjoy and applaud. Each of the sung items reflected tight production values, with particular vocal highlights including: the Ensemble in the Fisch Schlapping song; the Nuns’ choir; the heroically-sung King Arthur’s Song; ‘All Alone’; ‘All For One’; and ‘Whatever Happened to my Part?’ sung in true diva fashion by the Lady of the Lake.
The Ensemble were not left to languish in the background, but were woven into the show as full participants: always contributing positively and with good energy, they were as well-rehearsed and disciplined as the named characters. All Ensemble scenes were strong, but particularly enjoyable was the hubbub of ‘Not Dead Yet’ and the dramatic finale of ‘Find Your Grail’.
Acting skills came to the fore as the Principals committed themselves fully to their characters, making the absurd almost reasonable. Each actor found their persona, with notable performances including: King Arthur, whose regal bearing, strong speaking and singing voice and commanding delivery gave him great presence; Arthur’s line ‘What happens in Camelot, stays in Camelot’ was particularly well-expressed; Galahad’s rapid transformation from strident socialist to simpering courtier; Mrs Galahad’s apparently random involvement in the dancing; Patsy was loyal and long-suffering; Prince Herbert was played by a female (very successfully); Lancelot gave a most impassioned plea on behalf of the Prince and demonstrated excellent comic timing in swinging the shovel; Sir Robin found his inner musician; the Black Knight was foolish bravado personified; the French Taunter produced an astonishing array of accents, all clearly-delivered and entirely different to his dry Historian; and Not Dead Fred was hilariously nimble. There are so many characters that it is impossible to name them all, but the entire company gave their all.
Visually, the production was excellent, with a solid castle setting, costumes well-designed and fitted, appropriate props and excellent use of lighting. Flashing lights on the castle walls and a pulsing Round Table gave an air of Las Vegas; the emergence via a trapdoor of the Lady of the Lake, through mist and surrounded by beautiful, green-clad nymphs was atmospheric; the blood and gore of the Black Knight’s execution was gruesome; the powerful, gospel-style ‘Find Your Grail’ was skilfully lit to enhance the impression of a heavenly choir; Arthur seated on his servant was a striking pose, with dramatic thunder and lightning adding to the effect; the lit wand shone out and the Knights of Ni scene benefited greatly from the break-up effect.
Dances were well-rehearsed; the choreography found the fun in each number, with gorgeous costumes to draw the eye and with immense energy in their performance. The tap dancers were particularly good, with Arthur cleverly choreographed, too; the yellow brollies worked well, as did the pom-pon dancers; the blood-red execution costumes; Lancelot’s vest and codpiece and the exotic rainbow-pride outfits.
The company had worked as a team to achieve a very high standard and a tightly-woven and thoroughly entertaining production.