Last night Harvest Rain opened their flyby season of Monty Python’s spoof musical Spamalot to an obvious fan crowd, complete with standing ovation.
Based on the 1975 cult film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the musical adaptation by original Pythonite Eric Idle (Book and Lyrics), and Music (John du Prez and Eric Idle), will not disappoint avid fans. With the inclusion of their most famous scenes such as the Knights who say Ni, the Black Knight, the Finnish fish schlapping dance and killer rabbits; these characters only had to just turn up on stage for the audience to start cheering (well the in-crowd who knew the in-joke to come). In fact, the most iconic Python song of them all, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, inspired a spontaneous audience sing-a-long. However, those who didn’t know the Python references may have felt left out and wondering why all this silliness was so funny. Don’t get me wrong, you can still enjoy the show without being a fan, but it is more rewarding if you are.
So to recap, Spamalot is about a quest given to King Arthur, by God, to gather the Knights of the Round Table in order to find ‘The Holy Grail’. In a comedy of errors, King Arthur suffers from little man syndrome in that no one takes him seriously. He rides and invisible horse and comes complete with his own foley artist (aka Patsy his faithful side-kick servant), who clip-clops two coconut shells together to provide sound effects for his cantering, albeit invisible, horse.
Harvest Rain’s director Tim O’Connor has a knack for pulling star power to a show, and has paired up once again, Jon English and Simon Gallaher in the roles of King Arthur and Patsy, who bounced off each other with the same familiar laid back banter as they did 30 years ago in The Pirates of Penzance, often breaking the fourth wall to include the audience in their antics, which they cleverly made great use of during line fumbles, and rather than cover mistakes, they would milk it for all Betsy was worth.
Stalwart of the stage, Julie Anthony added to the star-studded line up in the only female lead role, The Lady of the Lake. With true Diva status, she gave the production the nod of professionalism with her impeccable vocals. Other Brisbane favourites in the line-up included Dash Kruck who played numerous parts with wit and charm, and Chris Kellett as Sir Lancelot, who had the Monty Python shtick down patsy. Steve Hirst as Sir Galahad and Shaun McCallum as Sir Bedevere rounded out the Knights.
But the stand-out was stand-up comedian Frank Woodley as namby-pamby Sir Robin, whose comic timing and execution of character was as expected, brilliant. But it was his smaller (but not lesser) role of the taunting Frenchman that stole the show. Woodley was aptly silly, irreverent, and hilarious as he improvised additional insults for the Knights of the Round Table and had the audience in the palm of his little French manicured hand.
The dancing chorus did a solid job adding some sparkle to the show, with colourful costumes by Josh McIntosh and fun choreography by George Canham. However, the set was a little disappointing for this large QPAC staged production. But knowing how brilliant McIntosh is in everything he does, further investigation would most likely reveal that the cartoon-like backdrop of the castle was intentionally sketchy to remain faithful to the skit-like, low-brow style of the show.
Monty Python’s Spamalot by Harvest Rain is simply a light-hearted, fun time in the theatre, and has a very short sprint of a season with only two more shows in the QPAC Concert Hall, at 1pm and 6pm Sunday October 5.