Sanjeev Bhaskar On ... King Arthurís CrownDate: 30 June 2008
Since rising to fame in the BBC sketch show Goodness Gracious Me, Sanjeev Bhaskar has established himself as one of the leading British comedy writer-performers. Heís now making his West End debut playing the final King Arthur in Monty Pythonís Spamalot at the Palace Theatre, his first stage role since appearing in Art in 2001. He's married to Meera Syal, his co-star in Goodness Gracious Me and the follow-up series The Kumars at No. 42.
Iím really enjoying working on Spamalot, as I like doing things that are outside my comfort zone, it makes me work harder. And itís fantastic working with such a nice bunch of people - weíre dancing and singing every day. Iím hoping it will be keeping me fit. Iíve tried the no carbs thing but I think this will have a greater impact!
Prior to the TV work I did a lot of theatre in education and then I did Art in the West End, but Iíve never done a musical before so in that sense this is a huge departure for me. I sang a bit in Goodness Gracious Me and did a charity single with Gareth Gates, but this is on a different scale. Iíve never actually considered myself a comedian. Iíve always thought of myself as an actor and a writer who just happens to be able to do comedy. I remember someone saying to me once, ďcomedy is just drama with its trousers round its anklesĒ and Iíve always thought thatís such a good analogy.
In a way being crowned as the next King Arthur is almost like being the next Doctor Who, it feels like a mantle being passed on. Itís just such a pleasure to be involved in it, as Iím part of the generation that was inspired by Python. When we were doing Goodness Gracious Me, Monty Python and Woody Allen were the two main sources of inspiration. To get to say those words out loud is such a privilege. Itís utterly silly. One of the things I liked about the show when I originally went to watch it was that itís great to have theatre where the sole purpose is to entertain. I think it stops us getting too up ourselves.
Iíve been sent a few plays in the last few years, but I didnít find anything that felt like a good fit, so this has come along at a great time. Seeing Meera do Bombay Dreams and then Rafta, Rafta reminded me of how much fun I had had doing Art, so Iím delighted to be back on stage. One of the things Iíve really enjoyed about my first ten years in this profession has just been the variety of stuff I get to do - radio, theatre, and film, telly, documentaries, sketch shows, sitcoms and all the rest of it, but Iíd love to do more theatre work.
For me, theatre is probably the art form which has the most colour-blind casting. In TV and film youíre pretty much cast as characters who are written in accordance with a perceived notion of your race, but thatís less common in theatre. In Spamalot, if all the audience is thinking half-way through is Ďheís Asianí, Iím not doing my job properly. And anyway, if you study historical documentation you will find that King Arthur was in fact Asian. All great kings in British history were Indian.
- Sanjeev Bhaskar was speaking to Theo Bosanquet
Bhaskar is the final King Arthur in the West End production of Monty Pythonís Spamalot, which finishes its two-year run at the Palace Theatre on 3 January 2009, prior to a recast regional tour.