Laughalot triumph of Spamalot at Norwich’s Theatre Royal

Spamalot, Theatre Royal, Norwich

Half a lifetime ago Monty Python's Marmite love-it-or-hate-it comedy dominated the 'water cooler' and bar banter.

Mainly young men would recount gags, lines - and in sad cases whole scenes - from the latest TV episode or film, while the women tended to tut and look on bewildered.

Spamalot is a celebration of the Pythons' unique brand of humour - loosely based on Arthurian legend, combined with a mickey take of cheesy musical song and dance, and the inevitable touch of the surreal.

So we have knights in shining armour, chanting monks, glamourous dancing girls, killer rabbits and a flying cow. British comedy at its silliest, but drawing on historic, political and arts references to add the veneer of intellectualism that sets Python apart from Benny Hill.

It is a stage show inspired by the Holy Grail film, which reprises the favourite characters of the Knights who say Ni, and the intrepid Black Knight who battles on despite losing all his limbs.

And incredibly for something based on what was a niche cult following it has been big box office on a global journey which began in 2005 - because the show appeals way beyond seeking to entertain a few Python geeks of a certain age.

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A smattering of soap stars add to the mix, with EastEnders and Bill star Todd Carty as Patsy, servant to Bad Girls' James Gaddas' King Arthur, and Emmerdale Dingle-turned Dancing on Ice champion Hayley Tamaddon as the sweet voiced Lady of the Lake.

There is plenty to savour for Python aficionados in this show which runs until Saturday but for the uninitiated there is a musical hall mix of jokes, song and dance, that is entertaining in its own right - providing you like your comedy daft, anarchic and unPC.

In which other musical would you get heroic Sir Lancelot 'outed' as gay to a wild disco dance routine!

The finale, drawn from Python's other movie classic the Life of Brian, is a singalong session to Always Look on the Bright Side of Life -which is bound to send you home whistling the tune, rather than musing 'what was that all about?'

Richard Batson