So the Brits are best. To coincide with St George’s Day yesterday (23 April 2007), the London cast of Spamalot, along with former Pythons Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam and 5,567 members of the public successfully formed the “world’s largest coconut orchestra”, beating the previous record, set last year in the US, by more than three to one.

Prior to last night’s event in Trafalgar Square, the Guinness World Record for the largest number of people gathered in one location playing coconuts at the same time stood at 1,789, as set on 22 March 2006 outside New York’s Shubert Theater, to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Broadway production of Spamalot. Craig Glenday, editor in chief of Guinness World Records, was on hand to officiate the British challenge. Once the registration forms had been counted and verified, he declared that 5,567 members of the public had taken part in the attempt and he congratulated everyone on breaking the official record by “quite a sizeable amount”.

Conducted by musical director Michael England, the Pythons, Spamalot stars Hannah Waddingham, Tom Goodman-Hill and David Birrell (who plays Patsy, King Arthur’s servant who uses coconuts to create horses hooves noises in the show) and other members of cast taught a packed Trafalgar Square how to ‘clip-clop’ in time to the Python classic “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. The record-breaking attempt, which took place at 7pm, was part of a weekend of free activities organised by Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, who was also on hand, and was followed by a special screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.


Later that evening, after the performance of Spamalot back at the West End’s Palace Theatre, Craig Glenday joined Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and the cast on stage to present them with their official world record-breaking certificate. Lady of the Lake Hannah Waddingham said: “We were fraught with excitement, concentration and the sheer will to beat our American counterparts!”

David Birrell added: “We are really proud of our record-breaking attempt, ultimately it’s great for Spamalot everywhere – it will be up to the Sydney company to break our record now. Our next record-breaking attempt has to be the most people ‘fish shclapping’, I play the Mayor of Finland in the show, so I’m particularly keen!”

Tom Goodman-Hill, who plays Lancelot, said: “It was a cauldron of tension backstage at the Palace Theatre in the run up to today - an intense physical and mental preparation and a burning frighteningly intense air of excitement. There’s a secret hankering amongst the company to break the Spam-slinging world record next!” And Michael England concluded: “It’s a technique originated by Britons, so it’s only right that we hold the record!”

Spamalot had its UK premiere on 16 October 2006 (previews from 30 September) and is currently booking at the Palace through to 3 November 2007. “Lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the musical tells the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in their quest to find the religious relic – and features a chorus line of dancing divas (with serfs), flatulent Frenchmen, killer rabbits and a legless knight. It has a book and lyrics by original Python Eric Idle, who has also co-written the music with John Du Prez. The London production reunites the Broadway creative team including director Mike Nichols and set and costume designer Tim Hatley. The three-time Tony Award-winning Spamalot opened in March 2005 at Broadway’s Shubert Theater, where it’s still running.

- by Terri Paddock (photos by Dan Wooller)