Spamalot – Phil tried to look on the bright side

Tuesday 10 October 2006

What went wrong?

Phil was really looking forward to Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Palace Theatre and so wanted to love it. Everyone around him was collapsing with laughter. So why was he only intermittently amused and laughing out loud on a only few occasions? He felt like the only sober person at the party.

All the elements were there: fast-moving, gags galore, witty sets, costumes,graphics and effects, and some good comedy performances. It had a spirit of silliness that hasn’t been seen since The Producers arrived in the west end. We love silly. There are even in jokes at the expense of Lloyd-Webber and Sondheim. But in Phil’s party one found the whole thing hilarious throughout, one found only the first half so, and three found it made them smile from time to time, but not really laugh.

It certainly opened promisingly in the Moose village, but Phil didn’t find himself laughing properly again until the French Taunters closed the first act. And all that Jewish and gay material – haven’t we seen that before somewhere?

Phil isn’t knocking the cast (well not most of them anyway); he particularly enjoyed Darren Southworth’s Prince Herbert and David Birrell’s Patsy. Phil ususally loves Tim Curry but despite his presence for a large part of the show, he was underused or underpowered or something. Still likeable, but something was missing. Perhaps Python just hasn’t aged well?

The woman behind Phil screeched with laughter and kept whispering “the next bit’s good” (yes, how annoying – you know who you are) but this seemed to be the view held by the majority of the audience who rose to their feet at the end, judging by which, it’s going to be a massive hit.

And (assuming it’s not a stooge) how many die-hard fans will be desperate to take part by booking seat D 1 ????

And sitelines?…mmm great seats but if there’s someone taller than you (Phil’s 5’11”) you don’t really want to be craning your head to see a full view of the stage at £55 a pop. And as for air quality, after the interval should we really need to waft programmes to keep cool? Maybe medieval conditions were to help us get in the mood. Didn’t work for Phil.

A special mention though for the front of house staff. Enjoyably dodgy French accents and puppetry skills from those selling the merchandise and spam sandwiches did add to the anticipation. I hope they’re encouraged to keep it up for the run. Well done!

Footnote: Where was Andrew while all this was going on? Looking after a lost kitten found near his home. You see, West End Whingers DO have compassion after all. He will be at Spamalot on Saturday to rubber-stamp Phil’s assessment.Mitzy

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