Monty Python's SPAMALOT

March 26, 2015 at 10:16 AM

'We dine well here in Camelot.

We eat ham and jam and Spam a lot.’

When considering the classic British legend of King Arthur and his fabled Knights of the Round Table, we think of chivalry, bravery and the epic quests, dangers and challenges faced in their pursuit of the ultimate prize - the Holy Grail. We also think of the ethereal, Lady of the Lake clad in white silk, holding the jewel encrusted sword, Excalibur, aloft. The man brave, strong and righteous enough to make Excalibur his, is destined to be the King of England. The legend teaches strength, courage and most importantly, loyalty.

OK, throw those thoughts out the window… just as the Monty Python team did when they first penned the 1975 film, ‘Monty Python and The Holy Grail!’ A musical theatre spin-off, ‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’ was ‘lovingly ripped off’ from the original film and parodies the Arthurian legend by following the trials of King Arthur and his servant/horse, Patsy, as they wander the countryside in search of candidates to join the Knights of  the Round Table.

For those who arrived in Elliot Hall with no foreknowledge of Monty Python – the team of comedians who changed the face of British comedy in the early 70’s – it didn’t take long to discover that their humour was absurd, farcical, cheeky, irreverent and squirmingly, unashamedly hilarious!

As the man whose adventure was bequeathed to him by the ‘finger in the sky,’ Braydon Robinson was dashing as Arthur, King of England; his majestic presence gaining the audience’s attention with his passion, position and arrogance. Unfortunately, the audience were not his loyal subjects! Despite not receiving one iota of respect from anyone he encounters on stage, Arthur manages to recruit a motley crew of Knights including the strangely flatulent, inept scholar, Sir Bedevere (Kurt Hawkins); Sir Galahad (Sid Chand), the once grubby ‘mud gatherer’ who  becomes dashingly handsome once knighted; the homicidally brave Sir Lancelot (Oliver Hadfield) who is fearless to a fault; and Sir Robin the Brave but-not-quite-so-brave-as-Sir-Lancelot because quite frankly, he isn’t (Nick McQueen).

The diversity of talent that Sid, Kurt, Oliver and Nick brought to the stage as a quartet of marvellous misfits was fantastic to watch. These were fine character actors who displayed excellent comic timing along with strong vocals for the musical numbers.

Sam Elliot played the role of the King’s greatly under-appreciated servant Patsy, who longs for Arthur’s approval but never receives it. We also discover from the outset that he doubles as the King’s horse and gains untold comedic mileage with a pair of halved coconuts to beat out the thrum of horses’ hooves - a low-budget stand-in for a cantering horse! As the ‘pack mule’ to Arthur, he was lovable, presenting bright optimism with his rendition of the much loved song, ‘Always look on the bright side of life.’

The final lead role belonged to the big voice of Lili Taylor playing the Lady of the Lake; strong, beautiful – egotistical and petulant, a high maintenance Diva! As a true Diva, her amazing singing voice, and the ability to sing effortlessly in many styles and vocal registers, was crucial to the role; one that Lili played to a tee. Backed up by the all singing-dancing Laker Girls, she revels in the Las Vegas-style show scene that was definitely not the Camelot of folklore, and then returns later to vigorously complain ‘Whatever happened to my part?’ when she ‘disappeared’ from the stage for far too long in her view.

It’s almost five decades since Monty Python first aired on newly coloured television and for the nostalgic fans who were familiar with Python’s ‘off kilter brand of humour; they must have been well pleased with this faithful rendition. For a cast who were born almost 30 years later, the students did a brilliant job of keeping up the high energy, madcap mayhem as King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table galloped into Elliot Hall. The physical and comedic demands of the show could have been daunting but the combined ensemble of character actors, dancers and musicians did a fantastic job of rising to the challenge. A brilliant night of comic theatre, well done!

Our thanks to Head of Music, Ross Gerritsen who compiled a mixed orchestra of students, Old Collegians and professional musicians to piece together the 230 pages of ‘complex music’ to support the cast on stage. He also designed the set which was built to compliment a 24m2 proscenium projection screen to depict time and place. Assistant Musical Director, Lachlan Craig worked with the cast on the large chorus scenes while directing some of the lead characters through their feature items.  Head of Dance and the show’s Choreographer, Mr Geordan Wilcox spent considerable time introducing the cast to the myriad dance styles they needed to master before the show opened and Director and Head of Drama, Ms Emma Bishop took on the costumes, designed and coordinated to combine the ‘ridiculous’ with the period dress of medieval Europe; and also worked with the leads to establish characterisation and style while working on accents, comic timing and the unity of the team of misfit Knights. Along with lighting and sound, the technical aspects were skilfully programmed and executed to make this a truly magical night of musical theatre.

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