What a talented bunch of youngsters we have in our midst, with this year’s show fully maintaining the high standards set as the Company heads confidently towards its 30th anniversary.
As with many Monty Python ideas, the plot could be written on the back of a very small envelope, but this is the perfect milieu for individual interpretation incorporating farce and slapstick, song and dance, all delivered with delightful enthusiasm and a plethora of skill and talent.
In her first year as Producer, Jude Vandecasteele expertly managed the difficult challenge of honing a disparate group of 11 to 17 year olds into a cohesive group, which she achieved with aplomb. Jude, did you steal the “Spotty dog” actions from CAMS? Maybe the misbehaving parasols too. Jude’s forte, however, is in the individual, and, having seen her own performances in recent years, little touches from her repertoire were evident throughout, not least in the performance of Lucy Campbell as Lady of the Lake, an enterprising but temporarily overlooked diva. Lucy was particularly impressive in holding the stage alone for her rendition of “Whatever Happened to My Part”. She is a young lady with a powerful voice and impressive stage presence.
The Knights were all notable characters, led ably by Jake Middleton as King Arthur, whose stage technique and impressive singing voice formed a bedrock for the show. Jake was outstanding throughout, and I particularly enjoyed the delivery of “I’m All Alone” with the deadpan delivery extracting every last ounce of humour. King Arthur was ably supported throughout by his faithful (was she a horse?) Patsy, who I think was hoping to be his Queen. Well done, Emma Stevenson.
Ross Dickson as the cowardly knight, Sir Robin, got it absolutely right. His actions and reactions were perfect. Ross was so splendidly cowardly in his song “Brave Sir Robin”.
Stuart Melville and Josh Hope as Sirs Lancelot and Galahad were clearly having a ball, with lovely little touches of humour. Their facial expressions and mannerisms exhibited stagecraft beyond their years.
A nice touch for the audience arriving at the Corn Exchange was the presence of Elizabeth Thomson, Holly Painter and Amie Morrison, our historical guides for the evening, all kitted up in costume and perfect cut glass accents. Their contributions throughout with map references were reminiscent of many a Python sketch with Graham Chapman in the role of bumptious army officer.
I am not sure the opening scene of the “Fisch Schlapping Song” worked perfectly, with a few things going slightly awry, which I can easily forgive in the nervous first few minutes of a production. Any nerves were settled in the next scene with Orla White, Tab Gudgeon and Nina Henderson in a hilarious knockabout with King Arthur. Clever lines delivered in lovely mock Scottish accents soon had the audience belly-laughing. Later accents of a different kind were on show in the stand off between King Arthur and his not so brave knights and the French defenders of the castle. Another clever little scene with well delivered mock French accents and marvellous moustaches – it must be “Movember”.
There were numerous stand-out scenes and song in the show, with some of the highlights for me being “I’m Not Dead Yet” featuring Morgan, another one of the talented Middleton family; “The Song That Goes Like This” being a perfect piece of Python nonsense; and of course the show-stopping “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” which had the audience participating enthusiastically.
It is hard to believe that the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, on which “Spamalot” is based, was released more than 40 years ago. Whilst that is (reasonably) fresh in the mind of some of us, it must rank as ancient history for the Company cast, and it is to their credit that they captured so much of the spirit of it, and it is clear that there are some big Python fans in the cast. Moments of pure Python abounded, no more so than in the scene involving the Knights of Ni, where Sam Jeffrey and his entourage revelled in the ridiculous. How did Sam remember that, when he no longer said “Ni”, (I think) he said “Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-Ptang, zoom-boing, Z, nourrwring, ebba M“. I was particularly impressed with the scene at the cave of the Killer Rabbit. A difficult scene with considerable interaction and tricky dialogue was presented most effectively. The audience loved it.
“God on a tricycle” sounds like some kind of mild expletive, but here we had a very hairy James Painter making his omnipotent presence felt. Was his foray across the stage later on his high speed trike an unscripted Act of God?
I loved Lewis Hann’s delivery of the instructions for exploding the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, with a peroration on the importance of the number “three”. Perhaps a slight “shtumble” in the final line of his dialogue, landed him in the doo-doo?
Now, what of the chorus, a number of whom I know were on stage for the first time, but all looking like they were thoroughly enjoying the experience. The opening scene apart, I felt that everything came together very well, with lots of animation, smiling faces and generally everyone being in the right place at the right time.
A strong feature of CYMT has always been the standard of singing from the principals through to the chorus, the company having had a succession of excellent musical directors. Once again, this was more than ably managed by Emily Middleton (yet another of that talented family).
This must go down as one of CYMT’s great successes, tackling “something completely different” and probably wholly unfamiliar to many of this young cast. The standing ovation and roars of approval from the audience last Friday evening were thoroughly well deserved.