spamalot_350×250.jpgWe dine well here in Camelot
We eat ham and jam and spam a lot

In the comments of this piece on This Is England, Emma notes that during a film or a show, if the title of the show is mentioned one should take a drink. Thankfully I had already taken a number of drinks before this moment in Spamalot came up, and so the pain was ameliorated a touch. But MAN ALIVE, this is a bad show.

I like musicals. Perhaps that pushes me out of the target audience of Spamalot, but outside of fourteen year-old boys and their show loving mother, I am at a loss to see who the audience for Spamalot is. The subtitle of the performance is “A New Musical Lovingly Ripped Off Of Monty Python and The Holy Grail”. The use of the word “Ripped” in the sense Jack The Ripper properly used it. Now I am as fond of Monty Python And The Holy Grail as the next man who was a fourteen year old boy once. And I like good musical theatre. What I don’t like is something which seems patched together between half-arsed musical parody, pastiche and impersonations of old sketches. There might have been some people rolling in the aisle when the Knights That Say Ni turned up (there wasn’t), but after ten minutes of poor Cleese impressions all goodwill had been thrown out of the window.

It is odd, because television sketch comedy is both tied to its script, and its performers. Does The Black Knight sequence work because of Cleese, independently of him or in spite of him (the latter in my opinion). Where it doesn’t work is when someone just tries to ape the mannerisms while recounting the nonsense script. Possible half the packed but subdued audience were keen on seeing how they would do the limb chopping off (exactly how you would imagine) but by the end of the scene we all laughed politely (well they were trying) and waited for the next bit*. What the show most resembles is a variety act, with lots of “bits” shoved together. And nothing seems more shoved in, and bad as the uncalled for appearance of “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”. NOT EVEN FROM THIS FILM.

I have never hidden my disdain for Eric Idle, and this song in particular. But it is strange that all the bits which aren’t stolen directly from the patchy plotless films, is a straight attempt at Broadway parody. It works exactly once on “This Is The Song That Goes Like This”. And you get the feeling that it works precisely because Hannah Waddington playing the Lady In The Lake wills it to work (and can sing). Which leaves a thoroughly wasted Simon Russell Beale and his gang of impressionists to sing a couple of slightly homophobic and remarkably anti-semitic songs which apparently sum up the Broadway experience. Mel Brook’s “The Producers” are clearly the source for these songs: but Brooks is Jewish, and his musical is ABOUT Broadway. Spamalot cannot really justify “You’ll Never Make It In The West End If You Don’t Have Any Gays”, mainly because it isn’t a West End stereotype. Brooks’ “Keep It Gay” is spot on with it identification of musical theatre with an aspect of gay iconography: the coming out of Lancelot in Spamalot just seems mean spirited.

Its a ragbag of bad ideas, cliches and second hand sketches. You know the bloke who does Monty Python sketches down the pub? Of course you don’t because he had it beaten out of him by the age of sixteen. Unfortunately Eric Idle never did.

*Or hoped for the end.