The Three Musketeers: Gleefully silly

Le Navet Bete in The Three Musketeers: A Comedy Adventure – Mark Dawson Photography

Award-winning physical comedy troupe Le Navet Bete and Exeter Northcott Theatre present The Three Musketeers: A Comedy Adventure at York Theatre Royal.

From the creators of smash hit shows Dracula: The Bloody Truth and Dick Tracy comes a raucous new comedy adventure that spans a 1970s backyard den to the French countryside of 1844.

The hot-headed D’Artagnan, armed only with a baguette and a slated bicycle steed, travels to Paris full of misplaced bravado and a sense of adventure to become a Musketeer. Thus begins a gleefully chaotic parody romp infused with childlike excitement, celebrating Alexander Dumas’s classic swashbuckling tale with ultimate silliness.

Directed by John Nicholson, the company’s staple four actors – Dan Blanchi, Nick Bunt, Al Dunn and Matt Freeman – portray over 30 characters and undergo 112 changes on stage (aided by Stage Manager Abi Cowan), whirling about Ti Green’s (Touching the Void) clever, enigmatic set that elevates a treehouse to what it might become in the eye of its young inhabitants; grand, inspiring, multi-faceted. Windblown branches double as ornate gilded portrait frames, creeping up three angular levels of open-edged platforms from which the quartet perform their derring-do. Windows and hats are tossed like frisbees into the hands and boxes awaiting them with pleasing precision, thrillingly juxtaposed with moments of apparent technical failures that only serve to enhance the show’s knowing-wink relationship already firmly established with the audience.

Le Navet Bete reimagines the classic characters from the book with playful delight, the show well and truly stolen by Matt Freeman’s defiantly aloof, alluring Lady de Winter and Nick Bunt’s cartoon-villain Cardinal Richelieu. In fact they reimagine the plot too, duel-slain bodies re-animating in order to bring some lightness (and “European unity” – sob…) to this “time of bad stuff”. Peter Coyte’s transient soundtrack lowers the stakes and keeps the focus on the adventure. Bouffon, montage, video games and Milk Tray advert recreations are deployed with cheeky grins. They take pleasure in the minutiae, such as Barman Platitudes and gaol cell butterflies.

Internationally renowned choreographer Lea Anderson MBE (The Cholmondeleys) makes her mark on the hair-raising action of the climax, seeing Dunn’s D’Artagnan battle it out with Freeman’s de Winter with a dynamic Capoeira-like pas de deux. Reminiscent of The Reduced Shakespeare Company and Monty Python’s Fish Slapping Dance, this two-hour whistle-stop tale is a parade of skillful play. Fi Russell’s costumes add to the childhood games theme with double-sided dinner-lady tabbards for musketeers and royal guards, as well as impressively plush quick-change dresses and banditwear.

The show is a gloriously shambolic gambol, the actors’ infectious joy carrying the complex story with a passionate lightness of heart. There is a wonderful sense of camaraderie present in their expert clowning that surpasses that of the musketeers themselves. Fun for all ages and recommended for 7+, it makes for a perfect family night out.

The Three Musketeers: A Comedy Adventure continues on tour, returning to Yorkshire in mid-April – tickets and further information available here.

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