Stephen Hall appeared at HMT in Monty Python’s Spamalot, playing the roles of four different characters. HMT asked him which was his favourite character to perform, and why…
Stephen Hall: Well, the French Taunter gets to be rude in the outrageous accent, Tim the Enchanter get to fly, and the Knight of Ni has a fish in his pocket. But Lancelot is the most well rounded character, with a definitive and challenging journey. So the answer to your question is definitely Tim.
HMT: Is it difficult to keep up with whom you’re playing and have you had any moment of confusion?
SH: No – I just click from one to the other, like changing gears in a car. And the costumes tend to serve as a subtle reminder…
HMT: You also have some of the most famous Python dialogue to recite, for example the ‘French taunting’. Is it daunting to perform knowing that the audience might know the lines as well as you?
SH: A little bit. I am a Python tragic, so I’ve known these lines for 25 years or so, too. I read an interview with John Cleese where he said that if, in the Python shows, they ever forgot their lines, they could be sure that the audience members would prompt. I suppose it’s comforting, in a strange way. In the Lancelot and Concorde scene, when Lancelot is searching for the word ‘idiom’ I’ve heard audience members say “idiom”.
HMT: Of course, Spamalot isn’t just for Monty Python aficionados. What makes the show great for a wide audience?
SH: It’s not just a homage to ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ – Eric Idle has very cleverly updated and augmented the story. There are great jokes about musical theatre, there are topical gags, and there are even two romantic subplots that weren’t in the original! And the gags come so thick and fast, that if you don’t like one, you can be assured that another one will be a long in a couple of seconds.
HMT: You are renowned for having won ‘the lot’ on Temptation. What was it like to win and did it change your life much?
SH: It was an incredibly exciting experience. I did as much preparation as I could, and it was very rewarding (and yet still somewhat surprising) when everything panned out the way I hoped it would. In terms of changing my life, obviously it was a real financial help to me family (and our mortgage!), and I was really surprised and delighted at the outpouring of genuine good wishes and congratulations. Very humbling.
HMT: You have worked professionally as a ‘serious actor’, stand up comedian, voice over artist, musical theatre performer, and more. Does such diversity come about more because of financial need or creative need?
SH: Both, really. I always thought that I should have as many strings to my bow as possible, in an industry as precarious as this. I’ve always tried to turn my hand to many different types of performing and writing. And as the time passes, I find there are more and more types of performing I want to do, and more and more stories I want to tell. After all it’s a big world, and we’re only here once!February 2008