Theatre Review | Spamalot, Encore Performing Arts
"Spamalot", Encore Performing Arts | Trent College
31st May 2023, 7.30pm
Disclaimer: My ticket was gifted for review purposes, however I did purchase additional tickets for my two children. All views and opinions are my own. Photo credit: Chris Clarke.
I do not consider myself to be a theatre critic. Weird opening to a theatre review, I know, but let me explain. I may go to the theatre a lot, and I may write about the things I enjoyed, but I’m not here to criticise or offer improvements. I just want to share my love of theatre with anyone who cares to listen, and I believe there is something good in every show which should be celebrated.
When reviewing amateur theatre, I have 3 simple rules:
Never forget these people are not professional and all their hard work is purely because they love the experience.
Always focus on the positives - there are always some, and people do love to hear that their work was appreciated.
If you didn’t like it, don’t mention it - nobody wants to read a three paragraph breakdown on everything they did wrong, especially when this is a hobby.
But then, I go and see a show like “Spamalot” by Encore Performing Arts, which just makes my life so incredibly easy. I don’t have to dig to find the positive things to write about. I don’t have to craftily weave my way around the slightly weaker performances. All I have to do is write exactly what I think, as I could honestly not find a single criticism to make of last night's show, even if I wanted to. Honestly, the hardest part will be finding synonyms for “hilarious”.
Quick intro to the show, in case you weren’t already aware. “Spamalot” is a tongue-in-cheek, downright ridiculous musical comedy, “lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 movie. (Not my words, it’s the literal tag line to the show)
The show centres around Arthur, King of the Britons, as he endeavours to round up the knights of the round table and locate the holy grail. Written by Eric Idle and John du Prez, it features some of the key comedy moments from the film as well as an impressive amount of original songs.
Kev Chatten gave an absolutely masterful performance as King Arthur, the hero of our story. Full disclosure, I used to work with Kev in a previous life, so I was already expecting him to be brilliant, but I had forgotten just how good he really is.
Kev hit every single comedy moment perfectly, his singing was out of this world and he made it all seem so easy and natural. He even handled some tricky ad-libbing with a spot of audience participation. It was such an incredibly professional and impressive performance that makes it so hard to believe this isn’t what he does for a living.
Arthur’s long-suffering companion, Patsy, is played by Jack Readyhoof. Jack gives another fantastic, if slightly more understated, comedy performance. Often overlooked and underappreciated, it was Patsy’s reactions to the other characters that really made him stand out. A particular highlight of the show for me was the song “I’m all alone” where Jack perfectly portrayed Patsy’s rising indignation at once again being forgotten. In my daughter Poppy’s words - Patsy was the best!
The Lady of the Lake is one of my dream roles in musical theatre, although I don’t think I could perform it anywhere near as well as Charlotte Howarth does. She owned this part from the moment she stepped on the stage. She gave Diva. She gave Comedienne. She gave Fabulous. Oh, and she has a SERIOUS set of pipes - the Lady has some big belty numbers, and Charlotte smashed them all.
We were really spoiled for quality comedy performances in this show. Another came from Matt Charlton as Sir (Dennis) Galahad. Matt was hilarious as both the irascible Dennis, with his strong anti-establishmentarian views and as his “evolved” form, the dashing Sir Galahad. Matt also showcased some really strong vocals in the duet “Song that goes like this”, with just the right amount of “overacting”
The remainder of the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Lancelot, Sir Robin and Sir Bedevere were portrayed respectively by Stuart Bull, Jake Gelernter and Rob Charles. They all gave 100% to their respective roles, and provided some of the key comedy highlights in the show, whether it was with big Broadway-style musical numbers, giant Trojan rabbits or a rather imposing cod piece!
The ensemble of “Spamalot” were really doing the Lord’s work, providing excellent backing vocals and dancing as well as becoming a wide variety of weird and wacky supporting characters. There are far too many individual characters to mention by name but I am going to speak about a few of the stand-out roles.
Martin Holtom was flawless as both the Historian and Tim the Enchanter. He performed both roles with a sense of dignity and gravitas which just served to highlight the sheer ridiculousness of the characters. Another cast member with stunning comic timing, I found myself looking forward to whenever he was on stage.
One of my (many) personal favourite moments from the show was the scene with the Black Knight, played by Kheenan Jones. This is such a small section of the play but Kheenan absolutely nailed the character and comedy in the Black Knight and he milked every single moment. I was in stitches throughout!
Jarrod Makin also gave a scene-stealing performance as the unlikely damsel in distress, Prince Herbert. He threw himself into the role with gusto and also gave an impressive vocal performance in the song “Where are you?”
Natalie Webster gave an unforgettable performance as the French Taunter, with a never-ending supply of unusual insults. (Many of which I plan to use at some point in the future)
Other notable performances came from Mina Machin (Mrs Galahad), Arden Caspar Jennison (Not Dead Fred), Megan Fennell (Knight of Ni - ON STILTS!), Matt McAuley (Brother Naynard) and Keli Wain (Minstrel). Honestly, there was not a weak performance in the whole show. Comedy is HARD, and good comedic timing is a skill. A skill which this company had in spades. Every single line was delivered to maximum effect and the company milked every laugh from the script.
The musical direction for the show was by Tim Yearley, with assistance from Rob McAuley. The show boasted an impressive 13-piece band, which was a large band in such a small venue, but they did make a really nice sound and the balance between the vocals and the band was spot on. I also really enjoyed how the band interacted with the on-stage action at time, which really made them feel integral to the show.
Jordan Neary was the choreographer for "Spamalot" and made a really good use of the space available. There was a great variety of dance styles in the different numbers, including some fun tap routines, and the cast performed them all with energy and enthusiasm.
The script does feature a few swear words, and some rude humour, but if your children are mature enough to handle some slight adult material then they will probably found this hilarious. My girls were the only kids in the room, but they loved every second. Freya even declared it was the best show she has ever seen (which is slightly concerning, as she has seen me perform in a number of productions!)
Directed by Adam Guest (who I can only assume is incredibly please with the finished result), "Spamalot" is a masterclass in comedy theatre. It had great pacing, there was never a dull moment and I may have mentioned once or twice that the comedy was spot on. Having seen Encore's production of Tick Tick Boom earlier in May, followed in quick succession by this show, I have been blown away by the outstanding quality and sheer professionalism of their productions. Definitely a theatre company I will be keeping my eye on in future.
Encore's "Spamalot" is must-see theatre, and they deserve to be performing to sold out audiences every single. So go and buy a ticket!! The link is here - https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/encoreperformingarts/e-xalgbx
If you miss this show, you're a second hand electric donkey bottom biter.