Book and lyrics by Eric Idle. Music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle. Free-Rain Theatre. Directed by Jarrad West. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. 12—24 September 2023.

Those familiar with Monty Python and the Holy Grail will have a pretty good idea of what they’re in for when they gird their loins and enter Spamalot: lunacy; a mad plot (if indeed there is one); a homicidal rabbit; dreary, head-thumping monks; and preposterously brave and equally preposterously cowardly knights — to say nothing of irritants who refuse to be dead.

The intrepid Free-Rain Theatre Company has brought Spamalot to impressive life with an energetic cast of twenty-one and an on-stage orchestra conducted by the show’s musical director, the inimitable Ian McLean.

It’s difficult to single out performers from this ensemble; every member of the cast was outstanding in energy, timing, dancing prowess, singing, and ability to inhabit crooked old peasants one minute and Las Vegas–style entertainers the next.  That said, Michael Jordan carried consistently well the confident but amusingly self-conscious and somewhat self-absorbed King Arthur.  Darcy Kinsella provided that perfectly self-effacing foil for Arthur’s foibles, Patsy, the character whose chief duty is to faithfully clip-clop in his master’s wake.  The versatility of Meaghan Stewart was impressive in her brilliant performance of five roles as disparate as the hilariously cheeky French Taunter and the adamantly not dead Not Dead Fred. Grayson Woodham caught audience sympathy as the timid Sir Robin, and Hannah Lance brought to vibrant life both a convincing femme fatale in the form of the Lady of the Lake and the indignation of an entitled actress.

From the “Fisch Schlapping Song” to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, the production left nary a moment without absurdity to delight in.  Choreography was masterful, and the cast’s timing and coordination, including entrances and exits, was a credit to those coordinating it all.  Ensemble singing in particular was very impressive.

Costuming was vivid, imaginative, colourful, and dramatic.  And a myriad of stunning outfits grace the performers.  The entire show was enlivened by spectacular lighting — joyfully colourful, and sometimes comical in itself.  The sound provided excellent delivery of lines, although, for my part, it could have come down a few notches.

Under Jarrad West’s direction, the cast’s considerable collective talent for comedy made this mammoth production enormously entertaining to those intrepid enough to enter the castle gates.  Its commitment infusing the action, the dance, and the music with zest, the company served the audience a diverting feast from first to last.

Michele E. Hawkins.

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