Since 2006 Eric Idle and John Du Prez's musical Spamalot, lovingly 'ripped off' from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail, has been making audiences laugh, sing, and look on the bright side of life, (although that song was from The Life of Brian).
The latest run at The Playhouse in London sees Stephen Tompkinson (a great stage actor we don't get to enjoy often enough) play the part of King Arthur, and what a great king he makes. Tompkinson isn't just a nice face, he can also sing very well and delivered the comedy lines brilliantly. His facial expressions were enough to have me laughing without him even opening his mouth- a joy to watch.
His fellow knights, Lancelot (Graham MacDuff), Galahad (Jon Robyns), Bedevere (Robin Armstrong) and Robin (Rob Delaney) are all brilliant. Robyns' Galahad had me laughing from the off, clearly the image he was going for was "I'm a total sex pot and I know it" and with the constant hair flicking and gyrating it really came across.
One of the highlights for me (other than Galahad) was an elaborate song and dance about Lancelot being gay in which he wears a really rather spectacular silver leggings and black thong leotard combo. Pair that with the oh so '80s workout video dance moves and you have a laugh a minute scene!
Anna-Jane Casey's Lady of the Lake steals the limelight in some scenes with her brilliant numbers including "The Song That Goes Like That" and "Diva's Lament". Her delivery of some of the numbers was just brilliant, mocking the X Factor-esqe singing very over the top style to perfection.
Some parts are lifted straight from the film. I did have mixed opinions about that, mainly because the newly written parts are just as good as the original Holy Grail script, so the production more than likely would have still been a laugh a minute affair without those scenes. Nonetheless, the bits taken from the film are comedy classics including the Knights who say 'Ni' (which induced such a laugh from one audience member, the cast couldn't help but chuckle along with the rest of us) and a number of great songs.
The production has a whole host of fresh gags keeping it up to date and making it register all the more with the audience, with gags about Boris and his bikes, "plebgate" and Prince Harry baring all in Vegas ; "What happens in Camelot stays in Camelot!".
I think the venue for this latest run adds to the feel of the production. It is smaller than the previous venue which makes it a lot more intimate, giving the cast a real chance to indulge in some banter with the audience, and in some parts giving it a panto feel - which isn't a bad thing.
Finishing with a bit of audience participation with everyone heartily singing along to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", it was impossible to leave the theatre without a broad smile which even the bitter winter's night could not dampen.
In fact, sitting here at my desk, writing this review two days after seeing the show I still have "we're knights of the round table..." whizzing around my head! Go and see it, it's that comical tonic that's perfect for the festive season.
Monty Python's Spamalot is at The Playhouse from 14 November 2012 www.spamalotwestend.co.uk/home