Monty Python’s Spamalot/Malvern Theatres

ERIC Idle was always the funniest Python, the chubby faced champion of the ridiculous, a man who took comic surrealism right up to the wire and arguably beyond.

Much of the Python’s back catalogue doesn’t travel all that well, but not so with this laugh-a-second musical based on the gang’s Holy Grail motion picture.

Director Daniel Buckroyd has undoubtedly performed a small amount of surgery to bring the dialogue bang up to date, but his deft work with the scalpel merely enhances an already hilarious and rip-roaring script.

And don’t we just laugh our socks off right from the outset. Bob Harms’ deadpan approach to the King Arthur role is a perfect foil – or maybe that should read Excalibur – to the antics of his motley crew of knights, the most idiotic being Sir Galahad (Norton James) the peasant formerly known as Dennis.

Meanwhile, the Lady of the Lake is played right up to the sword’s hilt by a vampish Sarah Harlington, a raunchy amalgam of Mae West and a sort of post-Roman Britain Tina Turner.

All right, she may be just a remarkably advanced form of aquatic life, but this Guinevere can testify with the best of them, her voice surely capable of shattering a drinking goblet at a longbow arrow’s length.

Beefing up the barm factor is Matthew Pennington’s crazily camp Prince Herbert, a chap who quite obviously likes a good knight on the town in the company of males in chain mail.

And powering this relentlessly amusing progress through the Dark Ages is the music of John du Prez and the apparently endlessly talented Eric Idle.

It is a soundtrack that covers all the comic bases of a production that perfectly complements the legendary British love of self-deprecation and keen appreciation of the absurd, all of which combine to make a classic piece of theatre.

John Phillpott