REVIEW: Spamalot (Theatre Royal, Brighton, until Saturday, January 14)

If you are looking for a feelgood show this Christmas season and fancy something different to panto, you could do no better than bash your coconut shells together and ride to the Theatre Royal, Brighton – insofar as a musical set in the Dark Ages and containing fearsome rabbits, plague victims, limbs being sliced off, and brave knights constantly running away can ever be described as “feelgood!”

For a whole glorious month, the theatre is serving up a welcome return of Spamalot, being given a full Monty of a treatment in a touring production that when it visited last year was very good indeed – and is now even better.

Lovingly ripped off from the iconic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this is a story that is definitely not dead yet, as Spamalot plagiarises oddments from other memorable Python offerings to create a laugh-a-lot show with memorable songs, classic sketches and characters, a madcap retelling of the legend of King Arthur, and even an audience member winning a coveted tin of Spam when the sought-after treasure is found under their seat.

Director Christopher Luscombe has reshaped the Eric Idle/John Du Prez musical to fine effect for touring purposes and it is guaranteed to see off all those winter blues. With a top-notch cast, several of whom came to Brighton with the show last year, there is not a dull moment, from the taunting French (needless to say a topical reference sneaks in) to the shrubbery-seeking Knights who say Ni and the holy hand grenade of Antioch. It is all very silly indeed, but it’s also riotously funny and stonkingly good fun.

This touring production is different in a number of ways to the West End original, but these nuances take away nothing and add plenty. Last time around Jodie Prenger all but stole the show as the diva-tastic Lady of the Lake, but now her sheer fabulousness is matched by each of the leads. Marcus Brigstocke has enormous fun as Arthur leading his knights on the quest for the Holy Grail (sent on the mission by no less than Eric Idle on film as God), Todd Carty makes his mark as the put-upon Patsy (and one again brings the house down with a performance of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life), and there’s great multi-role performances from Robin Armstrong, Graham MacDuff (a treat as the homicidally brave Lancelot), Adam Ellis, and the fantastic Jon Robyns (whose duet as Galahad with Jodie, The Song That Goes Like This, is a true musical highlight).

For Python fans there is plenty to entertain (many will delight in spotting lines from classic TV sketches), for the average audience member the show provides an excellent and memorable night out, and in particular for those who have had their fill of glass slippers, magic lamps, and golden eggs this is the perfect winter tonic. Oh yes it is!

David Guest