The Three Musketeers
by John Nicholson
12 – 21 January 2023
When the young and naive D'Artagnan sets out on his quest to become a King's musketeer, he immediately encounters the dangerous femme fatale, Milady de Winter. After discovering that the musketeers have been disbanded, he makes it his mission to get them reinstated. But will his feud with Milady thwart him? And who the heck is she? This riotous adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' classic novel by John Nicholson (Hound of the Baskervilles, Peepolykus) was originally performed by physical-comedy theatre company Le Navet Bete on a UK tour in 2019, with four actors playing over thirty characters. A funny, high-energy adaptation of a universally loved story, which is suitable for audiences of all ages. Swashbuckling and rollicking adventure guaranteed – convincing French accents, not so much.
Photos: Gail Bishop
|Actor 1||Lucy Auva|
|Actor 2||Adam Stevens|
|Actor 3||Jamie Heath|
|Actor 4||Rosie Foster|
|'Stage Manager’||Rubén Remón|
Well, where do I start? I began chuckling as soon as this delightful comedy opened and didn’t stop until the richly-deserved curtain call bows.
There are four members of the cast who transform themselves, sometimes in the twinkling of an eye, into different characters, aided and abetted by their ‘stage manager’, who assists with props on stage, cleaning up a variety of liquid that is spilt and even assists with wardrobe when a ‘lady’ returns onstage as a man and has forgotten to remove ‘her’ wig. It is snatched off from the wings, with speed.
Set around 1625, the tale is loosely based on the premise that D’Artagnan is leaving home to fulfil his ambition to join the Musketeers. On his arrival in Paris he sadly finds they have been disbanded but meets up with three Musketeers - Athos, Porthos and Aramis and adventures begin.
There are many characters involved in telling the tale that unfolds with, as may be gleaned from the single quotes above, men playing women and women playing men. Lucy Auva stays mainly as our hero, D’Artagnan, but the other three take on a host of other roles – some of which appear often, like the wicked Cardinal Richelieu whose evil plans are well propounded by Rosie Foster, who manages to don the Cardinal’s red coat and hat and large wooden cross with great speed. The little goatee beard is added to great effect. The religious hand position she remembers to use each time she is Richelieu is never forgotten either. Apart from many other roles, and as a Musketeer, she often appears as the beautiful Lady Constance whose capture and rescue forms part of the plot.
It is Jamie Heath who, again as a Musketeer and other roles, takes centre stage as Milady de Winter whose poisoning of D’Artagnan’s drink, early on in Act I, make ‘her’ and D’Artagnan bitter enemies. Not content with one lady, Jamie, in a different hastily-donned wig and dress, is also Queen Anne who is so enamoured of the Duke of Buckingham, who has a large estate in England, ‘she’ gives him her diamond necklace – a big mistake!
To Adam Stevens falls the difficulty of changing character constantly, involving not only a hasty change of costume but also of accents too. There are numerous ‘cod’ French accents delivered throughout the proceedings all of which raise a smile. Again, a Musketeer, Adam becomes amongst many others, a Hooray Henry of a Duke of Buckingham, an innkeeper and a highly amusing maid given the speech of a modern ‘souf London’ girl.
As D’Artagnan, Lucy is rarely off the stage keeping the audience up with the plot (!) and giving the others time to materialise yet again as a different character. ‘Her’ moment of song (albeit lip-synched to allow breaking off for fighting) is onboard a cleverly-contrived sailing ship where seagulls attack and the wind creates an effective cinematic moment as she lets her hair loose.
The wonderfully designed set by Keith Orton has a three-level structure with a ladder, placed centre stage on the Miller Centre’s enviable revolve, thus allowing for the story to include walking what are deemed by the characters to be ‘long’ distances and the three platforms to become a wide variety of places.
Rubén Remón gets full credit as the stage manager who appears constantly throughout with the right things in his hand and the costumes by Nigel Kemp and the Wednesday Sewing Group deserve their own big award from being able to be put on and torn off again at speed. There are a huge number of sound cues in this production and full marks to Natalie Jones for their precise delivery. Jonathan Mash created the lighting design, again used to full effect. Props are by Peter Shore, including of course the important wooden swords used to deliver the fight scenes by Fight Director Emma Christmas and that very glittery diamond necklace. Incidental music throughout adds much to the production. An eclectic mix that includes La Vie en Rose and the theme from A Summer Place, with many other kinds in between!
The programme notes inform that the script didn’t contain any stage directions or set suggestions thus giving Director Julia Stevens a free hand whether she wanted one or not! To say that she, together with her excellent cast and, as she says, welcome collaboration, created an intriguing, clever, fast-moving, comic and altogether uplifting show deserving high praise, almost says it all. Bravo!