Spartacus – Gods Of The Arena Review: As Joyously Grotesque As Ever

SPARTACUS – GODS OF THE ARENA: Monday 21st of March, SKY1, 10pm

Spartacus is back, and fans of the show will be pleased to hear the wrist-flappingly violent historical sexathon is as unflinchingly gross as ever. If you’re not familiar with the series, ask yourself this; do you like boobs? Blood? Bawdy, over the top, swear-punctuated dialogue? Yes? Read on my friend. If you were looking for a detailed historical account of the well-known slave leader, you might want to go ahead and cancel your Sky One subsciption altogether.

Spartacus: Gods Of The Arena is a prequel to last year’s Spartacus: Blood And Sand, an enjoyable if wildly farcical romp (and I do mean romp) through the life and times of Spartacus. This year’s offering, which again stars Jon Hannah as Batiatus, a kind of Gladiatoral agent, and Lucy Lawless as his wife Lucretia, charts the history of the House Of Batiatus before Spartacus’s arrival. Confused? Don’t be.

Gannicus (Dustin Clare) is a sprightly, rock star type gladiator with nice long hair. He’s the kind of guy who, as we observe in the opening 10 minutes, is really good at making blood spurt out of other people in wildly unnatural ways (you get the feeling the production budget mostly went on Ketchup and fake arms). The crowd explode with adulation when he walks into the arena, and women are so overcome with emotion that they flash, accompanied by heavy slap bass music.

He’s owned by Batiatus (Hannah), a Gladiatorial pimp type fella who trains up gladiators to fight for cash. The best, like Gannicus, are rewarded with what one character describes as “drink and c***”. Told you about the swearing, didn’t I. Batiatus is one of the more erudite characters, saying things like: “He can fight with his cock as long as he wins,” and the exasperated “ahhh, Jupiter’s cock.” I’m currently orchestrating a Twitter campaign to make ‘Jupiter’s cock’ the new ‘drat’.

Gannicus is chosen by Batiatus to represent him in a show-down with rival Tullius (Stephen Lovatt), who’s right-hand man Vettius (Gareth Williams)  looks distractingly like Peter Crouch. Meanwhile, Lucretia’s old mate Gaia* (Jaime Murray) is in town, who tries to get off with EVERYONE, including Lucretia. Batiatus also gets hold of a new gladiator to train – a slave, about to be killed – even though Tullias, the slave’s owner, says: “This sh*t-f*ck will never be a gladiator!”

Given the frequent, excruciatingly drawn out sex scenes, constant blood spurting all over the screen and borderline incomprehensible lines about raging cocks, Spartacus: Gods Of The Arena has a surprising amount of leg to stand on. There is a plot, more plot than you’d expect from a show essentially billed as deathporn.  It’s not pretending to be high cultural faire; unlike the much more tedious BBC historical sexfest The Tudors. The gladiators here have more in common with lycra-clad Jet and Atlas as they do with real gladiators, but  none of that matters, because it’s a, pardon the expression, Jupiter’s cock-load of fun.

*Spot the moment when Gaia’s hair changes colour, and it’s completely unexplained.