Review: Spamalot at the Orchard Theatre

Guest review by Debika Cutts

Having grown up watching Monty Python on repeat, I was already smiling even before sitting down to watch this touring Selladoor production of Spamalot at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford.

On arrival, as a reviewer, I was handed a bag which contained… yes… a tin of Spam of course, and settled down to an evening of singing, dancing and much hilarity with fellow fans.

Was it going to be as funny as the real thing, was my main worry. Was it going to be like the time I watched Grease on stage, disappointed it wasn’t John Travolta and Olivia Newton John? How would the jokes compare if not said by the original six? And did I want it to compare?

I’m very pleased to say it certainly did not disappoint.

The antics of King Arthur, played by the fabulous Bob Harms, careering through the musical with his inept crew of Knights of the Round Table was gleefully silly and brought about a great night of laughter and nostalgia.

The quest for the Holy Grail took the audience along the journey with boundless energy and mishaps as the motley bunch of characters made fun of themselves, musical theatre,  topical news (yes, Donald Trump did make an appearance) and a fair share of camp humour. The one liner about Dartford’s infamous “Air and Breathe” nightclub drew a lot of laughs!

Rhys Owen’s performance as servant Patsy with the iconic coconuts was excellent, and the voice of the production certainly belonged to Sarah Harlington who played the Lady in the Lake (or the Watery Tart as described by Dennis). Songs such as “Whatever happened to my Part” and “I’m all alone” stood out. All the actors played their characters with enthusiasm and gusto, making them seem larger than life.

Firm favourites which drew laughs, whistles and cheers, such as the Knights who say “Ni”, The Black Knight (who won’t let you pass) and Bring me a Shrubbery felt effortlessly funny and the wonderfully familiar jokes hit the mark.

Monty Python lovers will note some off piste storylines to the original film – the most obvious being the significant promotion of Dennis The Repressed Peasant and an unlikely matrimony for Sir Lancelot (without wishing to give away the storyline!).

The choreography was excellent and the sequinned singing and dancing, including tap dancing on tins of spam, makes this a production for lovers of musicals as well as Monty Python fans like myself.  Elements of pantomime and slapstick humour permeated throughout the production. At times even the actors were having so much fun that giggles got the better of them and parts of the second half felt refreshingly unscripted.

This was Monty Python with a modern day spin, as well as a lot of spam!

Well done Spamalot – they ripped off the motion picture (as promised in the title) admirably. We were whistling “always look on the bright side of life” and grinning all the way home.

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