Review: Spamalot, by Eric Idle and John du Prez, Colchester Mercury, until May 13

Simon Shorten, Marc Akinfolarin, Norton James, Daniel Cane & Bob Harms in Spamalot at the Colchester

Simon Shorten, Marc Akinfolarin, Norton James, Daniel Cane & Bob Harms in Spamalot at the Colchester Mercury.. Picture: ROBERT DAY - Credit: Archant

If you love theatre, if you love musicals, if you love Monty Python, if you love an evening of side-aching laughter then make sure you beat a swift path to the door of the Mercury Theatre for one of the craziest, wittiest shows of recent years.

Sarah Harlington in Spamalot at the Colchester Mercury.. Picture: ROBERT DAY

Sarah Harlington in Spamalot at the Colchester Mercury.. Picture: ROBERT DAY - Credit: Archant

Spamalot is a glorious mix of musical, music hall, farce, pantomime and a loving send-up of the over-the-top majesty of West End shows. This aspect of the performance works better in regional theatre because the satire has greater perspective and this is reinforced by a pair stand-out songs “You need a Star” and “The Diva Song”. Although Eric Idle’s script understandably mines the classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail for its basic plot and gags, the show never descends to the status of a Python tribute act. The plot may be familiar but the performances are fresh and exciting.

The ensemble cast, led by Bob Harms as King Arthur and Dale Superville as Patsy, are never tempted to do impersonations of the Monty Python team. Instead we get satisfyingly bizarre historical figures inhabiting a musical landscape.

The Mercury’s artistic director Daniel Buckroyd keeps the action rocketing along. Everything is well drilled but the rapport between the actors is clearly fresh and lively. They certainly appear to be having as good a time as the audience.

The sets and design by Sara Perks have a panto element to them and director and cast have a lot of fun playing with perspective.


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As with any good night at the theatre it’s never a good idea to know exactly what is going to happen next and part of the joy of Spamalot is letting the show take you on a journey of good-natured insanity.

Transferring a West End show to the regional theatre is never easy. There is always a heightened sense of anticipation but Daniel Buckroyd handles these expectations with ease as he did with Betty Blue Eyes. It’s a good-looking show with a universally first-rate cast who delight in scooping up the audience and enlightening them about life in The Dark Ages. This show vividly demonstrates that it always pays to look on the bright side of life.

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Andrew Clarke

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