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Marvellous madcap mirth and mayhem in comedy adventure
With a 700 page novel to transform into a two-hour play, and just four actors in order to achieve it, it is definitely a case of 'all for one and one for all' in this splendidly funny production of The Three Musketeers. Theatre company Le Navet Bete manages to achieve the near-impossible by amazingly performing more than 100 costume changes - some of them decidedly more tricky than others - during the course of the show. And, in order to faithfully and accurately convey author Alexandre Dumas's 19th-century novel to the stage, with one or two slight alterations, of course, the outstanding cast of Dan Bianchi, Nick Bunt, Al Dunn and Matt Freeman have to perform every character themselves, both male and female. This they achieved with splendid success at the Lichfield Garrick theatre in Staffordshire, which staged the production over Friday 11th and Saturday 12th October.
The Three Musketeers play it for laughs. Credit Artur Tixiliski
Le Navet Bete, creators of previous smash-hit shows including Dracula: The Bloody Truth, opened their story in 1606 with the birth of D'Artagnan, who quickly grows up before leaving home for Paris at the age of 19 with the dream of becoming a King's Musketeer. Once in the capital, the dashing young swordsman, played by Al Dunn, meets up with musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis, only to find himself caught up in a web of intrigue spun by the scheming Cardinal Richelieu and played out devilishly by the evil Lady de Winter. In fact, Matt Freeman deserves all the praise going for his brilliant portrayal of Milady, one minute suitably seductive, the next dastardly cunning and deadly. While Al spends most of his time as D'Artagnan, Matt is equally convincing in the very contrasting role of Queen Anne of France. Completing the cast are Dan and Nick who enjoy a myriad of diverse roles, with Nick switching(almost) effortlessly between Cardinal Richelieu and Constance, the Queen's Lady in Waiting, and Dan playing the testosterone-fuelled roles of King Louis Xlll and Lord Buckingham.
The Lichfield Garrick played host to The Three Musketeers
This new comedy adventure benefits from an excellent and innovative set which can be adjusted to any scenario, including a boat journey across the English Channel, to enable the story to move along at a fast pace. It also uses a brilliant array of props, such as in illustrating injuries to Porthos and Buckingham, and depicting a swarm of butterflies - don't ask! Other, more widely used props, are bicycles for horses, with one particularly hilarious scene played out to the strains of The Osmonds' Crazy Horses. And, with panto season not far round the corner, Le Navet Bete also employ audience participation in the shape of a couple of dozen toy ducks.