Review: Spamalot, Edinburgh Playhouse

Bonnie Langford is a high-kicking, sparkly delight with a tremendous voice
Bonnie Langford is a high-kicking, sparkly delight with a tremendous voice
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“You won’t succeed in showbiz if you don’t have any stars”, goes one of tonight’s songs.

*****

At first glance, there’s scope for scepticism as to the stellar capability in this run of Spamalot, the musical “lovingly ripped off” from Monty Python by Eric Idle (or, as we know him in recorded form here, God) and John Du Prez.

Such doubts, happily, are unfounded. Steven Pacey’s lead turn as Arthur carries things along with fine voice and comedic touch. Todd Carty’s Patsy quietly fills his swag bag throughout the evening with scenes stolen by a grin or a caper before taking centre stage for Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Top marks also to the supporting cast and ensemble, especially Jon Robyns’ Galahad, and Niall Sheehy’s Lancelot (whose fate varies somewhat from classic Arthurian myth).

But for proper star stuff, all heads and ears turn to the Lady of the Lake. None other than Bonnie Langford milks the role of “that watery tart” for all it is worth, and probably a good deal more: a high-kicking, showy, sparkly delight in tremendous voice. The musical numbers are, for the most part, excellent, including several very funny pastiches of “proper” musicals, particularly when Camelot turns into a camp Knightclub with showtunes and during Langford’s tremendous parody diva turns.

Although there are some more topical gags, up to and including a reference to Eric Joyce (still) MP, it’s true to say that most of the best material in Spamalot was written nearly 40 years ago. Even if that comedy probably isn’t as “edgy” as it seemed in the days of Python it is, much more importantly, still very funny indeed and therefore worth sustaining, reviving and remembering. The staging of some of the classic Holy Grail moments actually adds to the foolishness of the original in a good way – no more so than Arthur’s epic duel with the Black Knight (“it’s just a flesh wound”).

It is, overall, a consummately daft, wonderfully entertaining night out, well worth going to see. As for stars? Go on then – five of them.

Run ends Saturday.