REVIEW – Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Sunderland Empire

Stephen Pacey, Todd Carty and Bonnie Langford arrive in Sunderland to star in the smash-hit musical Spamalot which is on this week at the Sunderland Empire.

Stephen Pacey, Todd Carty and Bonnie Langford arrive in Sunderland to star in the smash-hit musical Spamalot which is on this week at the Sunderland Empire.

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“GOD, the almighty and all-knowing, has misplaced a cup?”

Indeed he has, apparently, and thus begins the epic tale of King Arthur and his Knights (or should that be kkknigguts?) of the Round Table as they sally forth on their majestic quest in Monty Python’s Spamalot.

As Python fans will know, that’s usually about as much of a plot as you’ll get in their outings – but it’s more than enough to serve as a vehicle for endless gags and bouts of surrealist humour.

Along the way they meet the Black Knight, the knights who say “ni!”, the taunting French knights, Tim the Enchanter and the world’s most vicious bunny rabbit.

Yes, all the favourites are there as, with the show’s tagline happily admitting it is: “A new musical lovingly ripped off from Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.

There is a nice balance, however, between the plundering of the original film’s gag-bank to please the crowd, and inserting original jokes to make the show fresh.

I’m not the biggest fan of musicals, but the strong, lively performances of slapstick self-lampooning numbers are enough to pacify even the most avid hater of song-and-dance.

All the ingredients are there for a fantastic show even before factoring in the cast, with this incarnation featuring showbiz stalwart Bonnie Langford as aquatic sorceress turned uber-diva the Lady of the Lake. Langford’s performance undoubtedly adds weight to the show, adding to strong performances from West End veteran Steven Pacey as King Arthur and TV’s Todd Carty – best known for his roles in Grange Hill, The Bill and Eastenders – as coconut-toting Patsy, the king’s Baldrick-like squire.

So, in short, if laughter, swallows and shrubberies are your thing, then clop your coconuts down to the Empire.

Ross Robertson