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King Arthur and the Holy Grail given irreverent treatment
It is testament to the talents of Lichfield Operatic Society that it was not at all difficult to picture the likes of John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin taking on the roles of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table in this hilarious stage show. Monty Python's Spamalot, written by Idle nearly 20 years ago, has been lovingly ripped off from the acclaimed 1975 film comedy, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Python had some of the greatest comedy minds of the time at its disposal, but it is fair to say they would be both proud and delighted at the production currently being staged by Lichfield Operatic at the city's Lichfield Garrick theatre. The show, which runs at the Garrick from Tuesday 25 February to Saturday 29 February, is the latest production by the operatic society which began in its current guise in 1942, but can trace its origins back to the end of the 19th century.
Mad-cap fun in Monty Python's Spamalot. Credit Robert Yardley Photography
Spamalot is set considerably earlier than that - 932AD to be precise - when the realm of Arthur, king of the Britons, is beset with plague. He is sent on a quest by God to find the Holy Grail after first recruiting a band of chivalrous knights. That is about as far as the legend of King Arthur and the Round Table holds true, although we do get to meet the Lady of the Lake. However, in the mad world of Monty Python we also get Vegas-style showgirls, dancing nuns, stereotypical French people performing mime, as well as a killer rabbit and flying cow. The show also contains one of the country's much-loved comedy songs, Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life!, which is performed by Arthur, his long-suffering but faithful servant Patsy, and the knights.
The show pokes irreverent fun at King Arthur and his knights. Credit Robert Yardley Photography
The descent into Monty Python's bizarre world commences early with a typical Python-esque fish-slapping scene set in Finland, because the cast mis-heard the narrator saying England. From then on we have songs such as I Am Not Dead Yet, which introduces Dennis, later to become Sir Galahad, to the audience. From then on, Arthur recruits Sir Robin, Sir Lancelot and Sir Bedevere to his noble cause, before they are sent off in search of the grail. There is comedy and song aplenty throughout this splendid show, including a duet between Galahad and the Lady of the Lake on The Song That Goes Like This. And, of course, it wouldn't be Python if there weren't a couple of references to Spam! However, there is a slight tilt to modern times with a new song later in the proceedings that makes references to Harry and Meghan, and various reality TV shows.
Arthur and his men meet the French. Robert Yardley Photography
Pete Beck is outstanding as King Arthur, in particular during a particularly funny routine with his knights. He is admirably supported by Patsy, played by James Pugh, while Adam Lacey (Lancelot), Adam Gregory (Galahad), Patrick Jervis (Robin) and Cameron Morgan (Bedevere) all give splendid service. The main vocal talent, and glamour, is provided by Victoria Elliot as the Lady of the Lake
Rating: 5 out of 5
Pete Beck as King Arthur (right) and James Pugh as Patsy. Robert Yardley Photography
Monty Python's Spamalot continues at the Lichfield Garrick theatre until Saturday 29 February. Tickets priced from £17 are available by visiting www.lichfieldgarrick.com or by calling the box office on 01543 412121. Anyone wanting to join Lichfield Operatic Society are asked to email email@example.com or via the company's website at www.lichfieldoperatic.org.uk