One of the most important decisions a Drama Society can make is to pick the right show that fits the talents of their company. The beauty of a show like Spamalot is that it can easily fit most company’s and the show lends itself nicely to the Waterside Musical Society.
For those who don’t know about the world of Spamalot, the directors’ notes suggest that it is a strange and peculiar place – a broken England beset by plague, pestilence famine and the French. This is Eric Idle’s stage musical ‘rip-off’ of the classic comedy “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. Essentially it is a collection of sketches from the film, cleverly linked by some excellent musical numbers, telling the story of King Arthur as he gathers his Knights together and sets out on a quest to find the most sacred of cups.
King Arthur, being such an imposing and important character, needs an actor who can carry off imposing and importance in equal measure – Waterside are blessed to have such an actor in Mike Pavitt, who’s stature and characterisation were made for the role. Mike made good use of this characterisation to bring out the simple ignorance of the character, yet still be dominant as the King of Britons. Look out for him falling asleep on stage and looking up the wrong skirt….
Arthur’s faithful (but often ignored) sidekick, Patsy, is delightfully played with excellent comic characterisation, by Christopher Wortley. Antony Morrison portrayed Sir (Dennis) Galahad, with some wonderful smouldering moments and plenty of comedic attitude played to the audience.
For one particular role, it can be difficult to get the right balance of overacting, without overstepping the mark (and yes, that is possible). Nicola Duncombe, as the Prima Donna: the Lady of the Lake, was in fine voice, and overacted enough to build up the part as is required of the role.
The different cameo parts in the sketches are spread nicely around the company, given to those who might rarely get an opportunity to take the limelight, to step out and shine – if just for a few moments. Two stand out (but minor) performances were Denis Cameron’s portrayal of Prince Herbert’s Father, who was Charlie Drake like, and Lois Dyer’s ‘Knight of Ni’ who towered over even Mike Pavitt.
A fair amount of the society’s production budget may well have gone on costumes and wigs – with a myriad of different roles, there were plenty of costume changes for the company. The costumes were very colourful, not always forgiving, but for the most part, very cleverly done.
The weakest aspects of the production were the sound and the scene transitions – The sound may, in part, be due to the facilities available, but the microphones weren’t always faded in at the right time, or the volume of the actor wasn’t enough to enable them to be heard over the eight-piece band. Hopefully this was just opening night technical challenges and won’t affect the rest of the week. The scene transitions felt a little sluggish and/or bitty…. Again this could be affected by the limitations of the venue.
Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable production, with some very funny moments and some great singing from the cast. Given that it is Monty Python, you can expect to leave with a smile on your face and a reminder to “Always look on the Bright Side of Life.”
Spamalot runs nightly at 7.30pm at the Stage @ Noadswood until Saturday 27th October, with a matinee on the Satuday at 2.30pm.