Derek Metzger appeared at HMT in Monty Python’s Spamalot, playing the role of Patsy. The season ran from November 2007 to April 2008.
HMT: You’ve performed in some of the most famous stage shows of all time, such as Les Misérables, Me and My Girl and 42nd Street. How does Spamalot stack up against those shows?
Derek Metzger: Spamalot is such a wonderful show to be involved with, for so many different reasons. It’s a lovely company of people I’m working with and for … the production values are extremely high and we all love the piece and are very proud of this Australian production of it. On top of all that, as an actor, you want to evoke some kind of emotional response from an audience and laughter is so immediate and obvious. Spamalot achieves that response in spades. In my professional life so far, only a handful of shows have matched that. So, yes, this show is definitely up there as one of my favourites.
HMT: Spamalot pokes fun at a few of the big Broadway musicals. How does that feel, given you performed in a lot of the originals?
DM: Actually, ‘poking fun’ at something the way Spamalot does, is a compliment really. It’s not a personal one, obviously, but the fact that writers like Eric [Idle] and John [du Prez] felt those productions were important enough to satirise, makes me feel even prouder to have been involved with them.
HMT: The main character you play is Patsy, King Arthur’s loyal servant. How would you describe him and his journey through the story?
DM: I feel pretty lucky to be playing this character. Patsy is King Arthur’s man servant and ‘pack horse’. He’s reached about as far as any peasant could hope to, career wise. A career that also gives him a hobby … the ‘coconuts’. He’s very proud of that fact and absolutely adores his ‘Lord’. I describe his love for Arthur as like man’s best friend, who loves ‘unconditionally’. But part of him actually wants acknowledgement of that love and service and for me, that’s his subtext and emotional journey through this very silly and ridiculously funny piece. And in the end, he actually gets the acknowledgment. I think the audience sees that and love that, in amongst all that Monty Python absurdist mayhem; a little piece of emotional truth gets to shine through. The relationship between Arthur, Patsy and The Lady of the Lake represents the ‘heart’ of this piece and it’s a lovely thing to be able to play that subtext underneath all the other crazy stuff.
HMT: You get to perform the most famous song in the show, ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’. What is it like to have such an iconic song that the audience know so well?
DM: I love doing ‘Bright Side’ in the show, particularly the beginning of it. You can actually ‘feel’ the audience anticipating the chorus and squirming in their seats waiting for the chance to join in with the ‘whistle’. It’s also quite a responsibility because a good number of the audiences know these scenes and songs, like ‘Bright Side’, as well as we do. So, we have to be totally true to every word and lyric.
HMT: In the nicest way, you are now considered a veteran of the Australian stage. Do you find younger cast members turning to you for advice?
DM: If ‘veteran’ means “been around for a long time”, then yes, I guess I am. I don’t go looking to give advice to young performers. But if asked, I’m only to happy to help. Kids coming into the business these days are so much better prepared than when I was starting out. It’s great to see the standards of productions and performance here in Australasia skyrocketing. There’s never been a better time to be starting out in our wonderful industry.
HMT: What is the best advice you ever received regarding a career in showbusiness?
DM: That this industry was “part show and part business”.March 2008