Review: Monty Python's Spamalot, Hayes Theatre

Oliver Wakelin

This show delivers up what Monty Python fans are likely hoping it will, and also stands on its own as a great musical experience for patrons not familiar with the Python oeuvre.
Review: Monty Python's Spamalot, Hayes Theatre

Josie Lane, Jane Watt, Blake Appelqvist, Aaron Tsindos, and Marty Alix in Monty Python's Spamalot. Photo by John McRae.

Fish dancing, plague carts, taunting Frenchmen, elderberries, farcical aquatic ceremonies: this show, set in the middle ages, loosely follows the plot of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. King Arthur canters through the surreal two-hours’-traffic towards the cup that Jesus used at the last supper. Along the way he tries desperately to convince disobliging peasants that they are ‘Britons’ and that consequently he is their King. He battles the black knight, disobedient servants, loneliness, creatures with very sharp teeth; all while being exhorted to look on the bright side of life.

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This musical isn’t a performance of the film’s script: there’s plenty of new material, a new ending, new characters, and lots of self referential gags regarding the nature of the musical genre itself. The emphasis is placed on delivering all the old favourites, while addressing contemporary issues (the film is more than 40-years-old) and making sure the audience participates and has a wonderful time. We were called to our feet multiple times to dance or become involved in some other way, which was always welcomed.

Spamalot had its original Broadway production in 2005, where it was nominated for 14 Tony Awards, winning three, including Best Musical. The book, lyrics and music are credited to Eric Idle, with additional music from John Du Prez. The latter also composed music for Monty Python’s Life of Brian,which kicked off his writing partnership with Idle. Du Prez has scored over 20 films, including The Meaning of LifeA Fish Called Wanda, and at least three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle installments. 

Director Richard Carroll, who directed the hit Calamity Jane, has placed the audience partially on stage, creating ‘theatre in the round.’ This is at times reminiscent of a circus experience, which seems appropriate considering Monty Python did have a flying circus, after all. The energy is high, and the timing tight, all helping to ensure the comedy lands. The director’s notes at the beginning are in Swedish, without translation, with I was slightly disappointed with at first; until I typed the first sentence into Google translate and it came back “It won’t make any sense, if you translate, just stop now”, which did make me laugh.

Josie Lane, Cramer Cain and company in Monty Python's Spamalot. Photo by John McRae.

The actors are sensational across the board. Blake Appelqvist brought his own interpretation to the Knights who say Ni, and had the audience in stiches. Marty Alix as a dancing Sir Robin, and Aaron Tsindos as Sir Lancelot were clearly crowd favourites. Cramer Cain as King Arthur and Josie Lane as the Lady of Lake displayed their aptitude for comedy while also serving up plenty of heartfelt moments. Lighting (Katie SfetKidis) and set design (Emma Vine) conspired to transport us effectively through the mists (created with liberal use of the smoke machine) of time.

The bottom line is this show delivers up what Monty Python fans are likely hoping it will, and also stands on its own as a great musical experience for patrons not familiar with the Python oeuvre. 

Rating: 4 stars ★★★★
Monty Python's Spamalot 

Book & lyrics by Eric Idle, Music by John du Prez and Eric Idle
Director Richard Carroll
Choreographer Cameron Mitchell
Musical Supervisor Conrad Hamill
Designer Emma Vine
Lighting Designer Katie Sfetkidis
Associate Producer Michelle Guthrie
Production Manager Carl McKinnon
Stage Manager Gayda de Mesa
Assistant Stage Manager Bronte MacInnes
Cast includes Marty Alix, Blake Appelqvist, Cramer Cain, Rob Johnson, Josie Lane, Aaron Tsindos, Bishanyia Vincent and Jane Watt.

6 March - 13 April 2019
Hayes Theatre, Sydney

About the author

Oliver Wakelin is a WAAPA acting graduate and a PhD candidate.