Eric Idle and John Du Prez’s Spamalot is loosely based on the legendary tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table but more firmly based on Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. King Arthur recruits a band of Knights and goes off in search of the Holy Grail, used at the Last Supper. The show features the hugely well-known "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life." Spamalot’s week-long stay in Manchester Opera House is the last week of a nationwide tour.
The story moves all over the place, but the writers – and audience – don’t seem too bothered about following a coherent narrative and it works fine as a vehicle for funny songs and silliness. In places Spamalot is amusingly knowing, especially with "The Song That Goes Like This" (and its reprise).
The touring set is pantomime-esque, which is mentioned, joking, in passing, but which is still disappointingly basic. A big musical needs better and a few more dancers in some of the bigger numbers would improve the general look of the piece – it’s a small, if well-formed, company but it shows. It’s also disappointing that God’s only performance (Eric Idle) is marred by the audio and visual being slightly out of sync.
The highlights include King Arthur (Marcus Brigstocke) - followed by the rest of the cast - corpsing with the Knights of Ni, and the excellent camaraderie between him and Sirs Galahad, Lancelot, Bedevere (Robin Armstrong) and Robin (Rob Delaney). Prince Herbert (Adam Ellis) is also a noteworthy comic presence, only appearing halfway through Act 2. But the real star of the show, as Lady of the Lake, is Bonnie Langford; she’s sensational – funny, irreverent and in great voice.
The vociferous response of the audience (a handful stood to applaud at the end) proves that Spamalot is a massive success. I would only recommend going to see if you are already a Python/Holy Grail fan – though fun in places, it hasn’t converted me.