The Florians Theatre
PLAYS and movies are different beasts so the transition from one medium to another does not always go smoothly.
Fortunately Eric Idle was well aware of that when, to paraphrase the show programme, he opted to lovingly rip off 1975’s Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
It may share the same structure and many of the same scenes, Monty Python’s take on Arthurian legend being easier to transpose to the stage than most of its kind – there is no need to get a horse into the theatre for one thing, just a couple of pairs of coconut shells – but the stage show takes advantage of the change of medium to do for stage musicals what The Life of Brian did for Biblical epics and the original film did for silver screen epics, poke merciless, but sometimes affectionate fun at the form.
Which means that there is no requirement to be an avid Monty Python fan to enjoy The Florians’ production, although devotees will have lots of fun when favourite gags pop up and may have to hold themselves back from joining in with Martin Anderson as he relishes the role of King Arthur’s French taunter, all superiority and over the top ’Allo ’Allo accent. (All together now: "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!")
As in the original, the knights and the rest of the cast also pop up in various guises that play with the casting of the film.
So while Anderson also doubles up as the homicidal Sir Lancelot, Pete McKie mutates from Bolshy peasant into Sir Galahad – Dennis to his mum – who make not be quite as purse and chaste as Michael Palin’s screen original, thanks to the present of new character The Lady of The Lake.
The one key female role in a show that follows the film’s lead in being very much about fun for the boys, the part is challenging one that might have been a stumbling block to many an amateur company. However, that has been no problem for The Florians, thanks to the deployment of secret weapon Kadee Fraser.
Making good on the promise she showed in Inverness Musical Theatre’s Me and My Girl earlier this year, Fraser is a pocket rocket with enough energy for a mountain’s worth of wind farms with a powerful voice, dead on comic timing that elusive star quality and a happy willingness to sacrifice all dignity in the service of the joke, whether emoting like Dolly Parton or complaining with a diva’s pout that she has not enough to do in the second act.
Her duet with McKie’s Galahad, musical love song mickey-take The Song That Goes Like This is probably worth the ticket price on its own given the laugh quotient, but is just the fist of a series of showstoppers from the enthusiastic cast who in turn received one of the most rapturous responses from an audience the intimate Florians’ Theatre has yet seen.
There is a panto like quality to the show, complete with local references and knowing fourth wall breaking gags about the less than cinema budget special effects, especially in the famous scene where Arthur confronts the "invincible" Black Knight (Steve Kelly) and the oh-so-cute presence of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog, but this is all part of the fun.
Unspecial effects aside, the costumes and make-up deserve a mention, especially the make-up used to transform Nicholas Nicol, in the first of several hilarious strategic cameos, into the corpse like Not Dead Fred who will do anything, even a song and dance number, to avoid a place on the death cart.
However, as for the horrendous wig inflicted on Richard Miemczyk as Sir Bedevere, perhaps the kindest thing to say is that his role as the blunt Yorkshire-speaking King of Swamp Castle is a much better fit.
In fact, there are lots of performances to relish from Trevor Nichol as a King Arthur not quite as heroic as usually portrayed (although a good deal more heroic than Alan Holling’s cowardly Sir Robin) to Ashley Taylor as his loyal but overlooked beats of burden Patsy and a fun appearance from Morag Barron as a dim-witted guard.
Spamalot? Tis a silly place. But a very funny one indeed.
• Spamalot continues at The Florians Theatre until Saturday September 10.