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David Pibworth | The Blog


Spamalot Update: We Do Routines And Chorus Scenes

With footwork impecc-able ...



Well, the principle cast of Spamalot are now in place and we've had the first rehearsal, and all is going well. This is a large show. Larger that most shows I've directed ...

A shot from the original Broadway production. I know my version will be just as good.

A shot from the original Broadway production. I know my version will be just as good.

copyright: sara krulwich / the new york times

For those interested in how a musical show is produced, we have to get the text and spoken comedy learnt. While that is going on, cast members are also learning songs taught to them by our Musical Director, Kenton Brigden and when they have those down pat and all of the text, the Choreographer will come in and teach them dance routines and dance moves that will be required.

"So our cast have to be all-rounders
on the whole"

The Choreographer will also be teaching the chorus the large show numbers, and they will be brought in later. If you are interested in being in the chorus then contact me and I'll put you in touch with the Choreographer, Juliet Ratnage, who will be running a workshop day in October in Milton Keynes. Just email me for details if you're interested (get those tap shoes out again ladies!)

At the first rehearsal, we did some work on horse riding. Now obviously, as you may know, there is some horse riding required, but without a horse. Coconut halves are used for sound effects and Jonathan Barnett, playing Patsy (who is the chief coconut banger) and I discussed the different hoof clatters for galloping, canter, trot and walking. As my wife runs a horse stable and riding school, it's something I know a bit about.

Stephen Johnson, playing King Arthur, who does most of the horse riding hasn't really been on a horse before, so we discuss how to dismount, how to hold the reins and how horses react in general, which is all quite interesting, but the bottom line is that the more efficient he can look on his 'horse' the funnier it is.

We are possibly looking at bringing the actors to my wife's yard to see how horses are ridden and for them to have a sit on a horse (if they want) and learn how to dismount, which is the closest I've ever come to introducing any kind of 'method' acting into a show.

A couple of years ago I rode a horse - bareback while drinking a cup of tea and holding a briefcase - through a railway carriage for a TV Train Line advert, so was effectively on the stunt team on that occasion. In fact the horse I rode was a stunt horse and so pretty easy to ride and anyone with good balance and a little experience of horses could have done it.

In theatrical terms, I'm regarded as someone who knows a good bit about horses whereas, in horse yards, I'm viewed as the lucky sod who talked himself into a job that he was barely capable of. It's all a matter of perspective, but the later view is closer to the truth.

"Anyway, that's some of what we were working on and it's all coming along well. It's a brilliant cast"

Although the show isn't until the end of February next year, tickets are selling fast, so do get some as it'll be a great and popular show and it's only on for a week. You can book them by clicking here.

We've got a fairly long rehearsal period, but in between now and the show, there are many things on, not least pantomime where some of the actors and production crew are involved in various Christmas things. Indeed, I'm in panto for a few weeks in the Isle of Wight, so I'll be out of the loop as well. I'm playing Abanazer in 'Aladdin'. I usually direct a panto as well over Christmas, but I just couldn't face directing and appearing in panto over that period, so I chose to only appear this time around.

We're all getting a bit older and have to scale down a bit and have some relaxation time. Appearing in a panto is great fun while appearing and directing one can get a bit much.

Old Father Time was brought to mind when we recently found out that Terry Jones, top Monty Python man and so much more, was diagnosed with a fierce type of Dementia, aged 74. What a horrible thing Dementia is and for someone like Terry Jones, a man who has bought so much pleasure in word play, logical argument and comedy it's a tragedy, for him, his family and his friends.

I remember chatting with him a few times about 'Ripping Yarns' which he and Michael Palin wrote and I adapted to the stage and he was a delightful, funny and vastly intelligent man and directed many of their films including co-directing - with Terry Gilliam - 'Monty Python and The Holy Grail' from which the show 'Spamalot' was lovingly ripped.

"So getting Spamalot right in Milton Keynes is my little nod to Terry Jones"

Talking of the Christmas period, which isn't that far away and my panto contract, I've booked myself into a fairly decent hotel so that I can work on Spamalot to squeeze every ounce of comic potential out of it and I'm also working on a new sitcom.

The hotel has a swimming pool and a grand piano, so I will see if this helps. Last time I worked on the Isle Of Wight I had a mobile caravan at a deserted holiday park and it was an absolutely dismal place which I avoided at all costs except to sleep in.

I'm not sure which is worse, a deserted holiday park or one in full swing? I once worked at one as the MC at a 60's revival weekend and on the first night had to borrow a towel from Sacha Distel as towels weren't provided in our rooms. He was very gracious about it and when I dried it out and took it back he said "Oh, you'd better take it back to Peter Sarstedt as that's who I borrowed it from".

"It's this kind of thing that doesn't get
into autobiographies"

Due to the timings of the show I ended up being on the Island on New Years Day alone. I had a good party with the cast on the Eve and we all agreed to meet at the Island zoo as I really wanted to see the White Tigers.

As a non-drinker, it was only me who turned up at the zoo as the others were nursing ghastly headaches. I was befriended by an elderly lady who either worked there or was the other only visitor, I never established it. She asked me what I wanted to see and I said the White Tigers and she said "Ah, well the male tiger always comes out at midday, so shall we go and see the Meercats until then?"

I agreed as I like Meercats. We stood and looked at the Meercats who looked rather like the rest of the panto cast and just wanted to sleep. Finally, midday came and the lady walked me to the tiger enclosure and as she said - bang on midday - the male tiger appeared out of his sleeping area. I fiddled about with my mobile phone to get a picture of this majestic animal ... maybe he would come over and snarl at us and I could send my daughter a fab photo.

"I stood ready, camera posed"

The tiger didn't even look at us. He stretched, had a huge dump and wandered back into his den. I knew how he felt, so I went back to my caravan and watched 'The Sound of Music'.

It's interesting how such a delightful film can make you even grumpier when you're sitting in a caravan on your own on New Years Day, eating Boil In The Bag Kipper Fillets with Butter (Not boneless, £3.25).

I may yet write a book called 'Ghastly Places I Have Stayed At', but I'd better get Spamalot done first.

Until next time ...


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More about David Pibworth ...

David is the owner of David Pibworth Productions (DPP) which provide corporate entertainment and also actors for corporate training and development.

Having worked in the Light Entertainment field for many years and produced shows for Al Murray & Joe Pasquale amongst others, David is in a position to advise on well-known comedy and musical acts. DPP also represent Ray Galton and Alan Simpson's scripts which include Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son.

He is the director of MK Theatre of Comedy who are very well known locally for their stage adaptations of classic comedy scripts such as Fawlty Towers, The Vicar of Dibley, Allo Allo and many others.

He is a long-standing member of Equity and the Directors Guild of Great Britain and has acted in, and directed, many productions over the years, mainly in Light Entertainment, but with occasional forays into Shakespeare etc. Every Christmas he is contracted as an Ugly Sister in Cinderella, currently with 'That's Entertainment' who also use him as a director.

He teaches eccentric magic for The Pauline Quirke Academy and MKTOC also run a youth drama school in Olney from the DPP offices.

David maintains his busy lifestyle is a surefire way to avoid being on any committees. He is married to Julie, and they have one daughter, Esther and live in Clifton Reynes, surrounded by dogs, cats and horses. They live so close to the church that David has instructed his daughter - when he dies and not before - to fire him over the wall from a circus cannon.