Sunday, 13 April 2014

Spamalot London: the end of another era

As I went to the opening night of Spamalot at The Playhouse Theatre, London in November 2011, I simply HAD to go to its closing night too. Would've be rude not to! And as usual, I took a few friends along with me. (I have promoted the show SO MUCH over the years on Twitter, Facebook, my blog and virtually to everyone I meet, I really should have worked out a commission deal with the producers back in 2007! I'd be loaded by now! Oh well. That wasn't why I was promoting it. The fact is, Spamalot is the funniest and most brilliant show I've ever seen, and I wanted others to enjoy it too.)

As the title of this blog post suggests, it wasn't the first Spamalot closing night I've been to. I also witnessed the end of Spamalot's run at The Palace Theatre (the executive version) back in January 2009.

With Jodie Prenger in April 2011
Every time I've seen Spamalot, there's always been something different about it; Spamalot never stood still, and last night's performance was no exception. It wasn't seeing the excellent Jodie Prenger (what a voice!) as Lady of the Lake because I saw her in that role at Aylesbury when Spamalot was on tour in 2011. I did manage to say hello to her at the stage door last night though, when she told me how honoured she was to be asked to close the show at The Playhouse. It was lovely to see her again. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get a photo with her this time but she did give me a nice hug :-)

The main difference for me last night was to see Robin Armstrong as King Arthur for the first time. He was possibly the first clean shaven King Arthur I'd ever seen. It was so strange for me not to see him say "And then we LEAP out of the rabbit!" Consequently, it was the first time I'd seen Graham Newell in a lead role and I really enjoyed his performance. I thought his bent-over portrayal of Mrs Galahad was hilarious!

James Bisp |Robin Armstrong | Michael Burgen
I was so happy to meet James Bisp, finally. He wasn't on when I saw the show a few weeks ago, and the previous time, I didn't happen to see him at the stage door (which is always a bit of a scrummage - and it's also very badly lit. To The Playhouse management - if you wanted to do something fan-friendly, please install a light back there so we can see who's who!). What a charming fellow! I think his portrayal of Sir Galahad is, or rather was, outstanding! The parts he plays (Dennis, The Black Knight, Sir Galahad) are really convincing; he is such a good actor!

The atmosphere last night was, understandably, more upbeat than usual. However, I was expecting the audience to demand an encore of the finale, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, since it was the last night, but it was not to be!

Graham MacDuff with Harry in 2007,
with me in 2011 and last night

The biggest surprise for me happened not during the show but afterwards at the stage door. I bumped into someone who has become somewhat of an 'old friend': Graham MacDuff (husband of the gorgeous Anna Jane Casey) who has played both Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot over the years. He just popped in last night to see the last show. We first met at the stage door of The Palace back in 2007, in the days when Dennis used to say "Soggy old blondes with their backsides in ponds can't replace the electorate." It was so lovely to see him again and such a nice surprise!

I think last night was the 16th time I'd seen the show. To be honest, I've lost count! If you really wanted to see every blog post of every performance of Spamalot I went to, then click here, but I'd understand if just wanted to see the highlights:

Do you think Spamalot will return next year as part of the 40th anniversary of Monty Python and the Holy Grail? I hope it does!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Spamalot... my 15th time - maybe not my last after all

Spamalot is on at The Playhouse Theatre, London, but not for much longer. (Photo by Hy Money)

Yes, I went to see Spamalot again! This time, accompanied by my friends Sally Western (of Peter Cook 'Green Plaque' fame) and Hy Money (the UK's first female sports photographer and former photographer for Crystal Palace FC).

We had such a great time! I was so pleased to see Adam Ellis again as it was his day off last time I saw the show, much to my disappointment. His portrayal of Prince Herbert is so funny! After the show, we met the cast as they came out of the stage door and luckily, Hy Money took a photo of Adam and me!

Adam Ellis (who plays Prince Herbert and lots of other characters) and me, with the Millennium Wheel in the background (photo by Hy Money)

It was also wonderful for me to see, for the first time, James Bisp in the role of Sir Gallahad (and the Black Night and Prince Herbert's father etc). I was really impressed! What a strong performance! He really brought all the characters to life. Clearly, he has a glittering career ahead of him. I was so looking forward to meeting him at the stage door, but he somehow slipped out, probably when I was chatting to another member of the cast. I think they should come out one by one in an orderly fashion for us fans! It would make things so much easier if the theatre installed a ticketing system like they have at the deli counter in Sainsbury's. I digress.

I did manage to have a little chat with newbies Michael Burgen who plays Patsy, Daniel Boys (Sir Lancelot, Knight of Ni!, French Knight and Tim the Enchanter etc) and King Arthur himself, Joe Pasquale who photobombed a shot of Bonnie Langford and Hy Money I was taking!

It must be pretty scary stepping into a well-established show as the new boy! Respect to them!

Bonnie Langford (Lady of the Lake) and Hy Money being photobombed by Joe Pasquale (King Arthur)
 Bonnie Langford and Hy Money without Joe Pasquale
 Bonnie Langford and Hy Money with Joe Pasquale
I also managed to have a chat with Spamalot veterans Rob Delaney who plays Sir Robin (it was not much more than a "hello" to be honest, unfortunately), the lovely Hannah Malekzad (one of the knights who say Ni! and female ensemble) and the no-less-lovely Robin Armstrong (Sir Bedevere and Sir Galahad's mother etc). The cast are such a friendly bunch of people!

 Robin Armstrong, Michael Burgen and me (photo by Hy Money)
Spamalot closes on Saturday April 12th. How I would love to have a ticket for that performance...!


One reason that Hy Money was keen to meet up with Bonnie Langford was that she wanted to show her some photos she took of the cast of the 1982 performance of Pirates of Penzance at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane which starred an 18-year old Bonnie! Hy was a press photographer at the time and had been invited to the show's photocall. And here they are:

Lots of famous faces in the cast of Pirates of Penzance, Theatre Royal, 1982, including Bonnie Langford. Can you name them all? (Photos by Hy Money)

Monday, 10 March 2014

Saw Spamalot Again... my 14th time, but not my last

Me and Birgit just before curtain up

Many closing dates have been given for Spamalot London, and once I even bought a ticket to see the show, supposedly for the last time, only to discover that the run at The Playhouse had been extended yet again. But I fear they really mean it this time. A light finally goes out in the West End on 12th April :-(

Birgit Vaughan and I went to see the show for my 14th and penultimate time, last Saturday for the matinee performance. It was my first experience of Joe Pasquale as King Arthur, and what a delight it was! Of all the King Arthurs I have seen, he ad libed the most. It looks like he really loves trying to corpse the other actors on stage. e.g. "Shave my wildebeest"! Hilarious!

Since my last visit, I noticed some very funny little tweaks have been made to the script, like the shrubbery that's got heavy! I've seen the show change many many times since it was at The Palace Theatre, all those years ago.

No disrespect to their replacements who were great, but I was saddened to see that Jon Robyn (Galahad) and Kit Orton (Lancelot) have both left the show. And Adam Ellis (Herbert) was off that day, which only left Bonnie Langford (Lady of the Lake, whose singing gave me goosebumps), Robin Armstrong (Bedevere) and Rob Delaney (Robin) flying the flag for the old days!

Sadly, two of my bucket list items will now never be fulfilled. I never bought a D1 seat (it's a bit pricey), and I never did play Sir Not Appearing in this Show (I'm not famous enough i.e. not at all). Oh well, had fantastic fun nonetheless, seeing the show, on average, twice every year for seven years.

Supposing Spamalot really does shut on 12 April, my last time will be on 17th March; I'm going with a whole crowd. Looking forward to that even though it will be a bit sad too.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Monty Python Live, Monty Python Dating, and me.

Monty Python Live!

I seem to have become the unofficial unpaid spokesperson for Monty Python!

If you're a Monty Python fan and single, join my Monty Python Dating Facebook Group!

To recap, I won the BFI's Monty Python competition - part of the London Film Festival 2012 - which was promoting Graham Chapman's "A Liar's Autobiography". Ever since then, according to the media, I am the biggest Monty Python fan.. period.

The Sun
Then the Monty Python Live O2 shows were announced, and the media came after me! I was interviewed by six BBC radio stations, including BBC Radio 2 (The Jeremy Vine Show), as well as the Scottish Sunday newspaper, The Scotman, and my local newspaper, The East Grinstead Courier.

The Sun
Because of all the hype now whipped up by the Pythons, I then decided that it was the right time to launch my Monty Python Dating Facebook Group. I've always felt that a healthy interest in Monthy Python is an excellent basis for a happy relationship. (So why did I marry someone who hated Monty Python back in 1995 then? Don't ask... The marriage lasted nearly 15 years. That's not bad, considering!)

The Sunday People 
Look at all the Monty Python media I've been part of to date!

  • John named No 1 Monty Python fan | East Grinstead Courier & Observer
  • Lonely Monty Python fan looking on bright side of life in quest for love | Metro News
  • Insight: Can Monty Python recapture the magic? - The Scotsman
  • Monty Python's biggest fan takes his silly walk to East Grinstead streets | East Grinstead Courier & Observer
  • Dating group for Monty Python fans | The Sun |Showbiz
  • The Sunday People (print version only)
  • ▶ On BBC Sussex Radio talking about the Monty Python reunion 25 Nov 2013 - YouTube
  • ▶ On BBC Surrey Radio talking about the Monty Python reunion 25 Nov 2013 - YouTube
  • ▶ On BBC West Midlands talking about the Monty Python reunion 25 Nov 2013 - YouTube
  • ▶ On BBC 5 Live talking about the Monty Python Reunion 19 Nov 13 - YouTube
  • ▶ On the Jeremy Vine Show talking about the Monty Python Reunion 20 Nov 13 - YouTube
  • ▶ On BBC Gloucestershire talking about the Monty Python Reunion 20 Nov 13 - YouTube

John Wood at the BBC Kent studio
That's six articles and six radio interviews. Four of the articles were about the Facebook Dating Group I recently set up:

If you're a fan and single, join us!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Belsen liberator, Leonard Berney, takes part in landmark Belsen documentary "Night Will Fall"

Leonard Berney, second from right
Those involved in the original production included
Alfred Hitchcock!

Leonard Berney was interviewed in Haifa, Israel earlier today about the part he played in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. Then a Major in the British Army and only 25 years of age, he was one of the first of the allied troops through the gates of Bergen-Belsen on 15 April 1945.

"Night Will Fall", a feature-length documentary, produced by Spring Films in association with Angel TV and the Imperial War Museum will be released in 2014.


In the spring of 1945, Allied forces liberating Europe found evidence of atrocities which have tortured the world’s conscience ever since. As the troops entered the German concentration camps, they made a systematic film record of what they saw. Work began on a documentary to show the horror they witnessed to the German population.

Sidney Bernstein, chief of the Psychological Warfare Film Section of SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) commissioned the film. Those involved in the production included Alfred Hitchcock and renowned editor Stewart McAllister; they produced perhaps the most remarkable testament of the 20th Century. “No German can say he didn’t know” insists the commentary, co-written by Richard Crossman, the future cabinet minister.

These sentiments were judged by the British Government to be unsuitable to the bridge-building mood towards Germany. The film was never shown.

40 years later an American researcher found a rusty can marked “F3080” in the vaults of London’s Imperial War Museum. It was in very poor condition and the last roll was missing, but in 1985 a scratched and blurry copy was shown on PBS in America. Now after three years of work by Dr Toby Haggith of the Imperial War Museum, the entire film has been fully restored and piece by piece, frame by frame, the lost last reel has been put together from the original shot lists. For the first time in history the completed “F3080” is ready to be shown.

Spring Films in association with Angel TV and the Imperial War Museum is producing a 90” documentary for theatrical and television release. This documentary, ‘Night Will Fall’ is to coincide with the release of the remastered original film and will tell the remarkable story behind the making of the film, the people involved and the reasons why it was never shown.

Spring Films is an award-winning, London-based production company specialising in international co-productions and high-end documentaries for television, cinema, DVD, IMAX and multi-media platforms

For more information, please visit: