I had heard about this Bangalore production of Spamalot (a version of Monty Python’s Spamalot which is “lovingly ripped off” from Monty Python Holy Grail, a 1970 film) produced by Cause Foundation, because of my acquaintance with Vivek Madan. For all those who do not know him, Vivek used to manage Thespo Bangalore. He had won the best actor award in Thespo 3 for his role Arthur in Nostalgia Brand Chewing Gum, which was later on (beginning of 2011) was being produced by Q Theatre Productions (which also happened to be directed by him). So coming back to Spamlot, since Vivek was a part of this multi starrer (35 cast and crew members!) musical comedy, I had to watch it when it came to Mumbai for NCPA Centrestage Theatre festival.
Spamalot is a spoof on the quest of King Arthur and the knights of Camelot for Holy Grail. It is full of songs and dance, of course being a musical, it has to be full of that.
The play is really super funny. The humour is actually rip roaring funny, as the play was publicised! But sadly the show I watched was nothing of that sort. It felt like as if I was watching an under rehearsed school performance.
There were two shows of the play for the festival and I watched the first show of Spamalot. The show started a bit late. The audience was let in when the technicians were still fixing a few things on the stage which was not a very encouraging sight for the audience who had sacrificed their Sunday siesta for this 4p.m. show. Maybe it was a warning sign as throughout the play we could see some characters moving around the stage in the background and they were not part of the cast!
The crew members had taken the concept of “quest” very seriously and during the blackouts they kept using torches backstage in search of God knows what!! One certain stage manager could be seen moving around the backstage with her bag most of the play duration. Finally my friends and I were so distracted that we started taking bets as to who will be seen next time. Oh, and then there was this mystical, magical green light which started glowing suddenly in the middle of the first act and it kept glowing till interval. We just could not understand what was happening there. May be the Lady of the Lake was sitting there all that time.
The group dancers seemed to be out of sync. Each dancer seemed to be doing his/ her own thing. In the early part of the 1st act, there was a dance sequence (Lake Girls Cheer) where the dancers had tassels as props. One of the dancers dropped one of her tassels on the stage. That prop remained on the stage throughout the 1st act, despite various scene changes till interval. But credit goes to entire cast & crew, it remained in the same position throughout that duration. However, in another dance sequence, similar shiny props were dropped on the stage by the dancers. This time some backstage member thought “enough is enough, I cannot let these props on stage” and he decided to collect it from the stage hiding behind sheer white cloth curtain! May be he thought the Lady of the Lake had made him invisible.
There is a scene where the Camelot Knights in their attempt to retaliate to the taunting of French Guards at a Castle, leave a large wooden rabbit (in the style of Trojan horse) at the gates of the Castle. When the scene got over the rabbit had to be taken away. It had to be taken offstage from one of the exit doors. For quite a while the crew could not figure out how they were to take it out of that door. There was a long deliberation happening on how it needs to be moved out as the wooden rabbit was really large for a rabbit! It clearly showed they had not done a run through before the show.
The amount of money and effort which were taken on the dancers costumes, if even one tenth of it was spent on the costumes of King Arthur and his Knights then watching varying styles of black shoes would not have been such an eyesore. And how can I miss the wrist watch worn by one of the Camelot Knights! May be he thought the watch was too precious to remove or maybe he thought it was anyway a spoof so how does it matter that wrist watches were still not invented in that era.
In spite of all these glaring defects, the play had it’s funny moments. First of all, I really enjoyed all the parts played by Vivek Madan. He played parts of the narrator, the Knight of Ni, Mrs. Galahad, the French guy, the Sentry, Tim the Enchanter etc. etc. The best I enjoyed was Mrs. Galahad and the French guy. He was so funny.
I also enjoyed the performance of the guy who played “Not Dead Fred” and Prince Herbert. I loved his heart wrenching rendition “Where are you”. It was really hilarious to watch the encounter between the Prince and Lancelot who had mistaken the Prince to be some damsel in distress.
If I am not wrong, it was Priya Mendens who played the Lady of the Lake. I really enjoyed her Diva tantrums. One more song sequence that I enjoyed was “He is Lancelot”. It comes when Lancelot (Mark Swaroop) comes out of closet and accepts that he is a gay. These were some of the performances are really enjoyed. The play as whole, however, did not appeal to me.