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The Three Musketeers

John Nicholson and Le Navet Bete from the novel by Alexandre Dumas
Le Navet Bete
The Barbican Theatre at Plymouth Atheneum
to

So how do you squash 700 pages of epic adventure into just two hours? Le Navet Bete’s answer is to talk quickly (in dodgy accents), dash about and add expositional back stories.

The daft Plymouth University graduate foursome (with Abi Cowan on leaf blower) plies its trademark physicality and the art of quick change (some 112 in this production) to ensure 40+ characters are given an airing with the application of moustaches, wigs and tabards as the tale of intrigue, camaraderie and heroism unfolds.

The conceit is that the quartet were primary school friends whose lopsided treehouse derring-do as Musketeers is relived (with humour round about the same level) utilising rusty bikes as rearing stallions and sticks as swords.

Donning double denim and a cloak, gawky teen D’Artagnan (Al Dunn) buckles on his swash, downs a pint of Absinthe with a beef and stilton pastiche and heads for Paris—via a duel or three behind the Co-op bins—hoping for royal appointment.

Lady-in-waiting and constantly kidnapped Constance (Nick Bunt) provides the love interest while, with eyes like Alpine lakes, the poisonous femme fatale Milady de Winter (Matt Freeman) has seduction, murder, large cheques and a gerbil called Hank in her sights as the pious and pervy Cardinal Richelieu (Bunt again) plots to steal diamonds and overthrow the adulterous queen.

Moody Athos (Dan Bianchi) has hanged women in his squash and coke-expanded mind as the Protestants in La Rochelle are incited to revolt, rogue vigilantes roam the streets, aspirations of a butterfly farm chips away at The Rock while a pompous Etonian British Prime Minister (Bianchi) bangs away at birds between woodshed trysts and late night Louvre assignations.

Timing is all and the quartet have that in spades with asides, corpsing and clearly the company are having a great time. All the elements of farce and fun are there but, although undoubtedly entertaining, somehow this misses the mark—much impressively crammed in but thin and no heart.

Reviewer: Karen Bussell