When we saw Talent at the Menier last autumn, we really hated it. And that was because I quickly realised that it was only fun if it was performed by Victoria Wood and Julie Walters. Anyone else stepping into their parts, no matter how good they were, just didn’t cut it. And I seriously wondered if Spamalot would suffer in the same way. Could the Pythons be replaced?
Yes they can!
To be fair, one Python remains, Eric Idle in the role of video-wall-God, turning crotchety in His old age at the obsequiousness of mankind in its attitude to Him. But Marcus Brigstocke is perfect casting as King Arthur – tall, majestic (to an extent), looking down on ordinary humans with the natural loftiness of royalty. He is also a wonderful corpser to the delight of the audience. Todd Carty is also very entertaining as the long-suffering and largely invisible Patsy, the King’s backpacker, horse and general dogsbody. Hayley Tamaddon was a surprise as the Lady of the Lake, as I have only seen her in Dancing on Ice (where she was jolly good it must be said), and I originally booked hoping to see Jodie Prenger in the role (but alas she had previous commitments for the Northampton week). Ms Tamaddon looks and sings beautifully and brings out all the comedy in the role.
There isn’t a weak spot in the cast at all, and of the noble Knights that support the king, I particularly enjoyed the wry performance of Graham MacDuff as Sir Lancelot (and also the French Taunter and the Knight of Ni), partly I think because his appearance reminded me of Derren Brown, and you don’t think of him as being a Knight of the Round Table.
Stick with the Quest, because the first half did for me get a little bogged down in following the film of MP & the HG. I’ve not watched that film for over twenty years but I still found myself able to recite half the script before the interval. So it didn’t quite work for me, not because comparisons are odious, but simply because I knew what they were going to say. In the second half however, it becomes much more of its own show, with the wonderful “You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz” as Sir Robin advises on how to mount a musical that would satisfy even the most pernickety of Northampton critics; and The Diva’s Lament where the Lady of the Lake rues her own lack of a role.
Suffice to say, they find the Grail in the most unlikely of places, and everyone ends up happy ever after.
It’s a jolly good production, and everyone seemed to go home content. In fact the lady to my left guffawed so much that I thought she was watching another show. Few things are that funny!