Spamalot

Date 6th April 2022
Society Godalming Theatre Group
Venue The Ben Travers Theatre, Charterhouse, Godalming
Type of Production Musical
Director Keith Thomas
Musical Director Richard Stockton
Choreographer Alison Chapman

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Author: Pauline Surrey

Well, Spamalot is bonkers, of course! Eric Idle’s story of Arthur and his (mostly) bold Knights of the Round Table and their search for the Holy Grail, much of it garnered from the film ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ is actually really exciting, intriguing, and of course hilarious. The songs are exquisitely funny, the music is rousing and uplifting. Basically, it’s pantomime on stilts!

The programme offered a piece on Spamalot and the writer and composer, a cheery note from GTG’s Chair, a good Director’s Note, and a useful list of musical numbers. There were excellent cast and production team profiles with photos, which I always enjoy reading, they enhance one’s enjoyment of the show, I feel. Pieces on the society, its youth group, and on NODA completed this interesting and well-designed programme.

Two castle towers, one left, one right, which were frequently used, a wonderfully varied and fascinating projected backdrop, some moveable trees, a mound and a castle chamber with wonderful curtains all played their part. The props were many. Coconut halves, cheerleaders pompom things to waft, the Trojan Rabbit, the fabulous boat, Killer Rabbits, bibles, the hand grenade, the swords, the shwubbery, the body cart, poor Patsy’s heavy load, the minstrels’ instruments. Loads of props, all essential to the plot. Oh, and also a couple of arms and a pair of legs! There was clever and funny use of lighting, spots where they shouldn’t have been, etc. Backdrops were also amusing – the expensive forest, the heart one as Herbert and Lancelot got together, and many many more.

These were not just costumes, these were GTG costumes! By that of course I am referring to the creations of the amazing Carol Gallacher, who not only researches, designs and sources materials for the costumes, but also makes them herself, and they are always a source of great delight, and astonishing in so many ways. The Knights’ sparkly ones were marvellous, as were the minstrels’ ones, and so many others. I am told that the Lady of the Lake, Abbey Addams, was responsible for her own wonderful creations, and wonderful they indeed were, especially her amazing reversible green gown that turned into a fine white bridal one in a flash! She also sported some glorious wigs.

Richard Stockton made a marvellous job of directing the 10-piece band, the chorus and the soloists, so that we were treated to a musical evening of joy. Alison Chapman added to this joy with her fantastic choreography. There were so many complex, slick dance routines making full use of the stage, each one impeccably executed. The cast gave it their all with boundless energy and great skill. I especially loved the glimpses of tap dancing.

There was a very special atmosphere in the Ben Travers Theatre that evening. A kind of ‘its lovely to be back’ feeling that permeated the whole building and affected cast and audience alike. Director Keith Thomas came on stage at the start and expressed just that. Covid had obviously done its bit to     make the whole venture risky, difficult and yet even more important to press on with. That enthusiasm and determination on the part of everyone was palpable, the audience certainly felt it too.  Their own enthusiasm was in evidence from the very first minute.

Brilliant casting meant that we were constantly delighted as each character appeared, and what great performances we were treated to. King Arthur (Alex De Courcy) and his trusty knights Sir Robin (Rob Richmond in particularly fine voice), Sir Lancelot (Mal Fisher), Sir Galahad (Paul Prebble) and Sir Bedevere (the nimble-footed Josh Howell) were tremendous, all very individualistic, all very convincing, strangely enough. We grew fond of each of them, which shows the skill of the performers, as they might just have remained caricatures in any other production.

King Arthur’s manservant, Patsy (Matthew Benbrook) was another great performance. Not only did he have a fetching way of wielding the coconut halves, he was masterful with his gestures, glances and asides in King Arthur’s lament ‘I’m all alone’, and gave a super rendering of ‘Always look on the bright side of life’.

The French Taunter was hilariously played by Steve Alais, with great comic timing and superbly Gallic gestures.  Howard Benbrook was super in his two cameo roles of the historian and Brother Maynard. Karen Scull also excelled in her two roles of Not Yet Dead and the Singing Minstrel. 

The interaction between the sweet and gentle Prince Herbert (Brian Fraser) and his curmudgeonly and intolerant father (David Dray) was a joy to watch, as was the burgeoning love between Herbert and Lancelot. Once again great characterisation.

Last but by no means least, Abbey Addams gave us a stupendous performance as the Lady of the Lake. Such power in her voice, and so versatile – I enjoyed the jazz bits with the scat singing, for example. Great acting skills, great movement, great gestures, facial expressions and interaction with the rest of the cast, a fantastic comic performance.

Then, of course, we get to the chorus! Superb singing, including part singing, and superb dancing and movement in all the slick and lively dance numbers. Especially riveting were the ones with the cheerleaders, and the nightclub number.  Seamless costume changes, and at great speed too.  So much talent, such good teamwork.

With Godalming Theatre Group’s productions, one is always very aware of the great team effort and team spirit involved. Keith Thomas’s fine direction was evident throughout, together with Richard Stockton’s musical direction and Alison Chapman’s choreography. GTG makes it all look effortless, though of course we know the hard work involved. Such great comic acting skills and timing from the whole cast, whether large part or small, they were quite simply hilariously funny. A joyful, uplifting and extremely jolly evening was had by all, as was evident in the standing ovation at the end. We simply didn’t want it to end!