Writer: Chris Hannan
Director: Dominic Hill
Reviewer: Jenni Dixon
The Public Reviews Rating:
The English Touring Theatre (ETT), Belgrade Theatre Coventry and the Traverse Theatre Company combined present The Three Musketeers and the Princess of Spain. Whilst this production follows the main thread of the Musketeer story most of us already know, there are some imaginative additions to what is essentially a true love story.
Three musicians warm up the audience before the curtain rises. They walk amongst the stalls singing, playing (guitar, fiddle and drum) and interacting with the crowd and generally creating a pleasurable and relaxed atmosphere. D’Artagnan (Oliver Gomm) and Constance (Cynthia Erivo) are the first characters we meet, seemingly very much in love. But the path of true love doesn’t run smooth and when Constance is banished to work for the Cardinal, she encourages D’Artagnan to cross the Lost Stream to erase his emotions and make letting her go easier. From here, D’Artagnan faces a battle to re-group the aging Musketeers, fight off a baby eating monster and discover what the most important thing in the world is.
The set was a mixture of simple painted fabric backdrops, combined with clever lighting and a much more complex and detailed building/street scene. This meant that not only the stage floor itself was used, but levels above it. Scene changes, although done with the curtain up, sometimes in the background while foreground action was continuing, were quick and quiet and didn’t detract from the story or performances. The timing and organisation had obviously been rehearsed like a military operation! The beautifully crafted costumes only added to the opulence of the set. The baby eating monster is a huge 3 man-handled puppet. A strange but believable addition to the story and manipulated in such a way that you become blind to the operators (despite being in full view). Fleur Darkin has done an amazing job at choreographing the sword fight scenes, sometimes with the whole cast involved. They were timed just right and suited each of the characters (and actors) ability to move about the stage, wield a sword and throw the odd punch. Again, clearly VERY well rehearsed.
To the back right of the stage sat musical instruments. The music and sound effects were produced by the actors themselves. All seemed to play an instrument, or take control of a mic at some point throughout the performance to add sound effects and ambience. It was so cleverly done and showed off everyone’s extended ability to that of “just acting”. It was fresh, raw and how I imagine real theatre ought to be.
Oliver Gomm depicts D’Artagnans’ desperation to achieve very well. The characters naivety and keenness are consistent and Gomm makes him a lovable rascal, leaving us all willing him to succeed. Cynthia Erivo is Gomms equal in that she too is consistent and really connects with D’Artagnan, guiding him to find meaning in life. The Musketeers, played by Nicholas Asbury (Athos), Peter Forbes (Porthos) and Cliff Burnett (Aramis) couldn’t be more amusing, in particularly Porthos. He’s depicted as a rather camp, almost transgender musketeer reject whose demeanour fills the stage. Athos (Asbury) is the drunk: a down trodden, discarded musketeer with a certain “Keith Richards” aura about him. Aramis still has illusions of grandeur when it comes to his womanising, but Cliff makes us feel sorry for Aramis rather than cringe at his potential sleaziness.
Beatriz Romilly played The Princess of Spain. Her accent never faltered, she ensured she was the glue that pulled the story and the characters together and was a joy to watch perform.
The rest of the cast gave strong performances and there is no-one that stood out as a weak link. What came across from the stage increasingly throughout the play, was that this company of actors is a very close knit one. They oozed a sense of solidarity and community spirit that I have never seen before. They were definitely “all in it together” which only strengthened the concrete, devoted and believable performances. Truly commendable.
Over all, it was simply a remarkable piece of real theatre. It was dark, funny, sad, scary, engaging and surprising. It is this sort of production that MORE people should see. Although a bit scary perhaps for younger children in places, it’s the sort of entertainment that literally the whole family would enjoy. There was something for everyone. I would also highly recommend it to someone as their first introduction to theatre.
Photo: Robert Day – Runs until Sat 30th OctThe Three Musketeers and the Princess of Spain – Theatre Royal, Brighton,
Tags: Belgrade Theatre, Bertriz Romilly, Chris Hannan, Cliff Burnett, Cynthia Erivo, Dominic Hill, English Touring Theatre, Fleur Darkin, Nicholas Asbury, Oliver Gomm, Peter Forbes, The Three Musketeers and the Princess of Spain, Theatre Royal Brighton