Written in 1844, The Three Musketeers is a 700 page epic novel that tells teh story of d’Artagnan who leaves home to join, hopefully, the Musketeers of the Guard in Paris. Since being published, the story has been world renowned on stage, with an epic run on Broadway from 1928 the pick of the shows. Largely performed with mass casts and, as John Nicholson (Writer & Director) says in the programme, a focus on the first half of the book this adaptation of the classic aimed to cover the entirety in just 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Le Navet Bette are a theatre company beginning to really make waves on the UK theatre scene. The award-winning creators of smash hit shows Dracula: The Bloody Truth and Dick Tracy chose The Three Musketeers as their next show due to the fact it had a wealth of material to put a comic spin on and it gave them a challenge of performing over 30 characters worth of lines between just the four of them.
The show opens with the four of them on stage, introducing themselves to the warm York crowd. From there, it’s a raucous 150 minutes of fun with multiple costume changes, belly laughs and clever word play and acting to make for an enjoyable show. John Nicholson said that “the play began life with a two week process developing a framing device and (importantly) tackling the logistical question of how to tell this epic tale with just a cast of four.” It was certainly a challenge and for 75% of the show, it worked a treat. The four have such a chemistry, this kind of show wouldn’t work with people who had been thrown together as a troupe, but at times the show did move a little quick for the audience and some of the key bits of the story were missed.
The set design did however lend itself wonderfully to the acting and the telling of the story and if anything, was more important than the script itself in ensuring four men could act out this epic. It allowed for a really flexible show with costume changes never feeling too forced despite their being 112 changes in 150 minutes!
Was The Three Musketeers the funniest show I’ve seen? No. Was it the best acting I’ve seen? Certainly not. But there was something about it that ensured I left the Theatre Royal with a smile on my face. It’s hard to doubt the hard work and tenacity of the four actors and their exceptional assistant. The four are energetic and immediately likeable and even when The Three Musketeers fell short on quality, you wanted to enjoy it for the guys if anything. At 2 hours 30, this was a short show, but could have happily being just 2 hours as at times it ran very slow and when long periods without a laugh came, it wasn’t as good as show as it perhaps could have been.
That said, I attended with my dad this time, who was a fan of the silliness and the slapstick so maybe I’m just too young to fully appreciate the fun these guys had on stage. The best way to sum up the show is with the word “fun” – overall I enjoyed what I watched and I will definitely go and watch a Le Navet Bete show again knowing what to expect now! Good effort, just missing the mark but enjoyable all the same.