Brunton Theatre: Wed 5 – Sat 8 April 2017
Review by Dylan Taylor
Staged with great exuberance by the Musselburgh Amateur Musical Association, Spamalot! – at the Brunton to Saturday – is an infectiously joyful affair.
Some may thank the source material, this being Eric Idle’s “lovingly ripped off” re-creation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but the success of the show is due, in no small part, to the strengths of its cast and production team. Director Justin Skelton is able to get some wonderful performances out of his actors, and the cohesiveness with which everyone works together is a testament to his abilities.
Like the 1975 movie, this is a properly irreverent parody of the legends of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. Mark Becher makes a great King Arthur. His expressive sense of confusion and his ability to play the straight man amidst the absurdity of the surrounding events amplifies the production’s humour.
The very funny Justine Harthill acts as his faithful assistant Patsy, and plays a central role in one of the play’s most metafictional (and best executed) sequences. Their duet on I’m All Alone is one of Spamalot!’s most hilarious scenes.
Greg Holstead’s Sir Lancelot and Andrew Jack’s Prince Herbert similarly work well together, and their flamboyant rendition of His Name is Lancelot is another highlight of the show.
It is Alison Henry and Dougal Affleck, however, who manage to jointly steal the piece. Henry, as the Lady of the Lake, truly embodies her character, playing the part with a perfectly outrageous diva-esque persona. Her bubbly charisma renders everything she does – even the rare moments in which she must strain to hit the difficult notes – irrepressibly amusing.
Dougal Affleck brings a similar professionalism to his various roles of Dennis, the Black Knight and several more, which makes his characters some of the funniest to appear on stage.
There are only a few moments in which the MAMA’s non-professional status is worn more obviously on its sleeve. Sometimes the coordination of the dancers is not completely consistent or in sync, and at times the singing is treated somewhat casually. But this, in fact, almost becomes a strength, drawing attention to an interesting observation about Spamalot!’s very essence: that it’s campy, over-the-top nature is particularly well-suited to non-professional performances.
The musical, with fitting irony, is able to turn any lack of polish to its advantage, heightening the ridiculousness of its content. Here, MAMA pulls off the performances with admirable grace, aiming high in their ambitions, and for the most part succeeding.
The music is consistently enjoyable. The band plays well and is put to particularly good use here, as several of the jokes play off of their musical cues. Musical director Julie Durham and Choreographer Lisa McLeod bring the musical element to the stage with a good sense of how to play up Spamalot!’s comedy. Technical director Richard Tebbutt, too, is to be commended for his handling of the lighting effects, which play a fairly large role in the production.
There are a couple of well-placed riffs on recent events (Brexit and La La Land are humorously referenced) and Musselburgh itself gets a nod. These small touches of originality add an extra dose of humour to the musical’s narrative.
MAMA’s ability to channel the fun and extravagant spirit of Monty Python makes theirs a performance worth indulging in and experiencing.
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes (including one interval)
Brunton Theatre, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh EH21 6AA.
Wednesday 5 – Saturday 8 April 2017
Evenings: 7.30pm. Sat Mat: 2pm.
Tickets and details: www.thebrunton.co.uk
MAMA website: www.mamaonline.co.uk
MAMA on facebook: mamamusselburgh