Spamalot, Shaftesbury Arts Centre

THE sublime silliness of the Pythons sings through their musical, Spam­a­lot, the very freely adaptation of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

And the members of Shaftesbury Arts Centre Music and Drama group are enjoying every minute of it in Steve Pocock’s inspired production, on stage in Bell Street.

With Tim Trenchard conducting from the keyboards of the 11-strong musical Enchanters in the pit, and vast backstage team,  this was a real ensemble effort.

Of course the characters are familiar and beloved and the show even has audience participation, with a “peasant” brought up from the stalls and a chance to sing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Led by the ever-valiant King Arthur (in the impressive personage of Phil Elsworth) accompanied by the unfortunate Patsy (poignantly played by Bryan Farrell) the story follows the Knights of the Round Table on their quest for the Holy Grail, always aided by the mysterious Lady of the Lake (powerfully performed by Anne-Louise Richards), bemoaning the extreme under-development of her role.

The songs are both tunefully memorable and satirically sound, underlining the formulaic nature of a “hit musical”.

Watch out for the multi-talented Chris Bailward (as Mrs Galahad, Herbert’s unbending father and Brother Maynard) and Jerome Swan as the historian/narrator, The Knight of Ni, the French Taunter, and Tim the Ench­anter. And for Beth Gray’s Robin, Anthony Atwood’s hilarious Dennis Galahad, Charles Dillon’s sensitively murderous Lance­lot and Susan Grant’s Not Dead Fred.

The dancers add to the sparkle on this clever set, designed by Mr Atwood, strips out the masking sides of the stage and allows the crenellated heights at the back – ideal for throwing things at unwelcome knightly visitors!

Spamalot continues from Wednesday to Saturday until 20th July.  It’s great fun, directed and performed with evident enjoyment that quickly infects the audience.  And a good laugh is just what we all need at the moment!


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