After writing about not finding enough time to escape to the theatre, I moved heaven and earth (well, my parents looking after the children) to see Spamalot, the first of this year’s productions for the Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival.
As I looked at my monitor and saw 16.55 looking back at me, my evening already wasn’t going to plan. A fast walk to the train station and I was surprised to see the 17.06 quite busy. I decided the community were as committed to public transport as me. Although as the train trundled through local stations I grew more suspicious of standing room only. Taking out one of my earphones at Cardiff to ask what was going on. I embodied E.T.’s persona as I was gently told about a Justin Bieber concert. I pushed my hope of catching the last train home to the back of my head.
A pre-drink at Y Mochyn Du and all was forgotten. Everyman 17 at Sophia Gardens is as welcoming as ever, and life was put on hold for Spamalot.Spamalot, until now, has passed me by, but it was firmly recommended by a non-theatre going friend, and anyone who I did mention it to knew someone who loved it. As always, where comedy takes me really is the unknown, so I had no idea what to do with so many recommendations.
It started with a historian, before falling into comedy with a misunderstanding over Finland, from there the story took hold. Paul Williams as Patsy was absolutely perfect alongside Brian Smith’s King Arthur. This a fantastic double act, both ably keeping the narrative and comedy to time.
As context, this is Monty Python’s Spamalot, loosely based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I saw why my friend loved this given it is a parody of the Arthurian Legend. Throughout the production is given enough latitude to keep it relevant, references not only to Theresa May but also the aforementioned Justin Bieber concert assured the audience that the content was unique.
Richard Tunley’s production ensures the best of musical theatre is showcased. The Knights of the Round Table were a well-crafted group, keeping so much in their individuality to endear them to the audience, whilst creating a strong relationship on stage to make chemistry work.Spamalot tells the story of Arthur recruiting Knights to the round table, of how swallows might carry coconut shells, of the plague (and Not Dead Fred), of political radicals, and of the search for the Holy Grail. The story progresses with a Trojan Rabbit, an expensive forest, and a Broadway musical, and a killer rabbit.
I’m guessing you were with me to a point. The great news is, it ends with a wedding, and I’m sure a happily ever after.
The Knights were fantastic, and the performances of each kept the laughter flowing, and this would have made a great production. But it was the energy of Giaccolina Crothers’ dance team and the spectacular voice of Laura Phillips as the Lady of Lake which made the evening a complete success. Perfectly directed comedy, energy, and song meant that all elements of this production were checked off as a success.Spamalot is definitely a piece to push the edges of comedy. Lewis Cook as Sir Galahad was a genius in this along with Matthew Preece as Sir Lancelot and the French Taunter. There were too many moments of tears of laughter to truly dwell at the edges. It feels just to accept the genius of Monty Python.
And as ever, Sophia Gardens provides the perfect backdrop to the Everyman productions.And yes, Spamalot has given me so much love for Justin Bieber fans. The concert definitely finished earlier than the 22.30 which a lovely policeman assured me. By the time I found my train queue at the back of Cardiff Central I had five minutes to spare. Lots of lovely Bieber fans accepted my tale of my last train home to let me through to the front. And I gratefully made it home. A good evening complete, faith in the wonder of our world firmly in heart.
This review reaches you too late to see Spamalot (definitely do book tickets for the first production for 2018).
But! Cardiff’s Open Air Theatre Festival continues with:
The Vicar of Dibley – 6th – 15th July
Hello Cabaret – 9th July
Macbeth – 20th – 29th July
Aladdin Jr – 22nd – 29th July
Twelfth Night (Youth Theatre) – 23rd July