Spamalot, one of Monty Python’s most famous works and a surreal retelling of the legendary tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, is coming to Trinity Theatre this Friday. Eileen Leahy caught up with its co-director, John Martin, and discovered what it takes to put on a production of this size, and why it will have audiences of all ages looking on the brighter side of life once they’ve seen it
Why did you decide to do Spamalot?
It was a germ of an idea that came to me when I was working on Oliver! last Christmas.
Why did it appeal to you so much?
Purely for its sense of fun and anarchy – oh, and just for the fact it gives people a really great time!
What do you find amusing about the Pythons’ humour in general?
The absolute silliness of it all and the fact it also has a bit of a satirical edge.
How long does it take to put a famous show like this one – which Eric Idle wrote – together?
It takes a lot of planning and preparation. I started negotiating the rights with New York back in February this year. Then of course there are costumes, props and sets to work out and the casting of the musical’s main and ensemble roles.
Is it a musical all ages can enjoy?
Absolutely – there are lots of classic Monty Python moments throughout the show which will appeal to older children and upwards. And it has to be said, the lunacy and silliness of the Pythons is something which I feel people of all ages will find funny.
What are the challenges involved in staging a show like this?
For me, it’s simply the sheer size of it. There is a very large, complex set and the cast work their way through an impressive 116 costumes every performance. What’s more, there is the challenge of rehearsing some tricky dance numbers in just a slim two-week period.
How many people are in the cast?
We have eight principals and an ensemble, or chorus, of eight. This is divided between four boys and four girls. Spamalot is going to be the largest scale production of all my summer shows, and also features the biggest number of professional performers on stage at Trinity.
Can you reveal your cast members?
I’m thrilled that David Fawcett is going to be playing King Arthur for us. He is well known to audiences for his appearances in Beyond the Barricade as well as appearing in Les Misérables, where he played the lead role of Jean Valjean in both the Manchester and London productions.
We also have actors who have appeared with us before. They include Laura Coard, who was in By Jeeves and Oliver!, and Alan Atkins, who also worked on the latter production and starred in the Olivier-nominated The Tiger Who Came to Tea.
Also, Jamie Lee Morgan, who has just finished a run at The New London Theatre in War Horse, will be playing the Historian and Prince Herbet – as well as other parts.
How do you go about recruiting your actors?
Primarily we place notices of our auditions with Spotlight and Casting Call Pro – the industry websites – and contact some of the actors who’ve worked with us before. That way we have a great mix of some familiar faces for our audiences as well as making new connections and finding fresh talent.
What advice would you give to any budding actors and directors out there?
Just keep going and get involved! A number of our cast members have been to acting school and from there opportunities have opened up for them. It’s also important to have a ‘can do’ attitude, put yourself out there and find your Holy Grail!
What’s next for you at Trinity?
I am working on a brand new children’s show based on The Tin Woodman of Oz, which will tell the story of how he came to be. I’m also currently in pre-production planning for our Christmas show, which this year is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.
Spamalot starts on Friday August 26 and runs until September 3. Tickets are priced from £15.
For more details and to book please visit www.trinitytheatre.net