We crash Upstart Productions' rehearsals for Monty Python's Spamalot
The merry troupe of Upstart Productions are back with a second run of Monty Python’s Spamalot, the Tony Award-winning play ripped-off, er, based on the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Their rehearsal space, a photography studio during the day, has all the clutter you’d expect from a production in full swing. Fast food chicken and printed scripts compete for space on the tables.
But to get to the other side of the room, where co-directors Joel Trinidad and Nicky Triviño are busy poring over their notes, you’ll have to weave through stuff you wouldn’t expect to see — medieval weapons, shrubbery, and killer rabbits are strewn around the space.
And lying on the floor at the center of the room is a rolled-up piece of foam that looks like... wait a sec, is that an arm?
Safe Space for Creativity, Danger Room for Limbs
“‘Tis but a scratch!” bellows Dean Rosen, as the hapless Black Knight, owner of the dismembered appendage.
“A scratch? Your arm's off!” asks veteran actor Lorenz Martinez, who plays King Arthur.
“Come on then, you pansy!” taunts Dean, who charges at Lorenz and loses the other arm as a result.
The cast and crew break out in laughter as Dean continues to taunt and kick at Lorenz.
“We’ve never had a rehearsal where no-one laughs!” Nicky tells me during a short break later on. “There’s always at least one scene where we have to stop and take a break, because we’re laughing too hard.”
Far from being a distraction, the laughter and light heartedness becomes a force that propels the production forward. “What I found is that the show is better when the energy in the rehearsal is positive and creative,” says Joel.
“If you can get a really, really good energy in the rehearsal and translate that onstage... that’s really what you’re going for.”
To foster that creative energy, the co-directors have given the cast the freedom to improvise and play with their given roles. “It’s a very creative space, and it’s a space where you feel very safe as an actor in terms of your creativity,” says Reb Atadero, who plays the Historian and Not Dead Fred, among other roles. “What is so unique about this production is the free rein that’s given to you. You see a script and you color it the way you want.”
“There’s actually bits in the script where it says ‘insert topical reference here’ or ‘insert improv here’,” adds Dean (who has a complete set of limbs in real life).
“And because the goal of Upstart from the beginning of the whole process is to get people who can improvise and offer unique things, I think it worked really well.”
Second trot to Camelot
After the first Spamalot run garnered positive acclaim from fans and critics, Upstart Productions realized they had caught lightning in a bottle. And that recognition spurred the team to go for a second run.
“It’s very, very rare for a production company to get an actual hit,” says Joel. “Usually, if you break even, you’re happy. And this (Spamalot first run) was a bona fide hit because it was a hit with critics, it was a hit with audiences, so we said ‘why not?’ Everybody loved doing the show before, so why don’t we do it again?
Our conversation is interrupted by the sound of stomping metal. The rehearsals have resumed, and Noel Rayos, donning stilts and playing one of the Knights Who Say Ni, lumbers onto the floor. His intimidating facade is undone when he squeaks out a series of absurd commands to Arthur. And around the room, more giggling that turns into full-blown laughter.
“Non-stop laughs,” says Dean with a mile-wide grin.
A comedy fit for royalty (and peasants)
Fast forward to April 12, and the crew are about to hold their press preview performance. I catch Joel before the show and congratulate him on their efforts. “Don’t congratulate us yet!” he laughs.
The show starts, and the cast puts on a rousing performance to a packed crowd that includes Repertory Philippines co-founder Baby Barredo. (After the performance, King Arthur and his court will leap off the stage to give respect to Ms. Barredo — royalty recognize royalty.)
From that opening scene where King Arthur enters the stage bound in a straitjacket, the audience erupts in laughter and never lets up. The volume may be louder, but it’s the same type of laughter I encountered in the rehearsals weeks ago.
Now that the show is running, we can tell Joel, Nicky, and team — congratulations! – Rappler.com
Upstart Productions’ ten-show run of Spamalot plays on Fridays (9:00 pm) Saturdays (3:00 and 8:00 pm), and Sundays (3:00 and 8:00 pm) until April 22 at the Globe Auditorium, Maybank Performing Arts Theater at the BGC Arts Center in Taguig.
Beware of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.