The Masque of the Red Death takes its title from Edgar Allan Poe Poe’s 1842 short story of the same name, in which a thousand nobles attend a masquerade ball in a walled abbey in an attempt to escape the plague. However, Punchdrunk’s piece is based on a collection of nine Poe stories in total, also including The Fall of the House of Usher and The Black Cat.
On entering the installation, theatregoers, for whom evening dress is optional, are given masks to wear as they wander through BAC’s corridors for up to three hours, culminating with a cabaret in Prince Prospero’s Palace. The production is performed by a 28-strong company, directed by Felix Barrett and choreographed by Maxine Doyle.
Punchdrunk won the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Design for last year’s Faust, played out across the five stories of a disused warehouse in Wapping. The Masque of the Red Death has been nominated for the Best Design prize in this year’s Evening Standard Awards, which are announced tomorrow (See News, 7 Nov 2007).
In at the West End’s Palace Theatre, Broadway import Spamalot - which had its UK premiere on 16 October 2006 (previews from 30 September) - has extended its booking period by another seven months to 27 September 2008. “Lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot 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.
Spamalot 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.
The current London cast is led by Peter Davison as King Arthur, Bill Ward as Lancelot and Hannah Waddingham, whose swaps places with Broadway’s Lady of the Lake Marin Mazzie in January (See News, 9 Oct 2007). The company also features Robert Hands (as Sir Robin), Steven Kynman (Herbert), Graham MacDuff (Sir Dennis Galahad), Andrew Spillett (Patsy) and Tony Timberlake (Sir Bedevere).
- by Terri Paddock