THE NORTHCOTT THEATRE – TILL 5 MAY 2019 AND TOUR
THE THREE MUSKETEERS
RUNNING TIME – 2 hours 15 minutes – 1 interval
Northcott Box Office – 01392 726363
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 3 MAY 2019
Publicity materials are used to give you a flavour of what to expect when you are off to see a theatre production – you are left in little doubt by the posters and flyers for this show that you should not expect the conventional!
Le Navet Bete is a theatre company based in Exeter and made up of a group who met at Plymouth University. They have established themselves on the theatre comedy circuit and have an excellent local following, witnessed by the packed house on the first press night of their current show and tour.
And what does Le Navet Bete mean? ‘The Daft Turnip’ – nothing more needs to be added! Despite their locality, this is my first experience of their work and my interest is always aroused by productions of the Dumas classic – in another life I have written a stage adaptation myself.
So, we have 4 ‘boys’ creating for themselves an adventure in their splendid tree-house of a set – multi-levelled, with ladders and steps and tree branches everywhere – it is a beautifully realised piece of work. The boys then set on their adventure using all manner of props and costumes to create a rather faithful adaptation of the novel – so, their bikes (and scooter) become their horses, they quaff ‘Fanta’ and old material from curtains become their tabards. Soon we are in he thick of the action as the four performers switch from character to character with lightning costume changes and a precision which is only to be admired.
The comedy is both physical and verbal and performed with an effortless enthusiasm and patent love for the style they have adopted which lies just to one side of pantomime, though the elements of that genre are very evident – even down to using a certain amount of audience participation.
The splendid set by Ti Green is backed up with an inventive and very effective lighting design from Marcus Bartlett and the music from composer Peter Coyte is first rate – augmented by use of music from ‘Carmina Burana’ to ‘Crazy Horses’. Costumes by Fi Russell are a masterpiece of invention to offer enough about a character whilst making them easy to don and discard quickly. As production values go this has some of the best I have seen for a while.
The adaptation by John Nicolson – who also directs – is, as has been mentioned, perhaps surprisingly close to the original and is fun and full of quirkiness. However, it is – as I know – a very difficult novel to condense and although it has been done effectively enough, I just felt the complexities of the plot began to get in the way of the pace. The first half is just that bit too long and the second half lacked the momentum needed to bring the show to its conclusion.
Le Navet Bete is formed of Dan Bianchi, Nick Bunt, Al Dunn and Matt Freeman – incredibly talented performers all – and I loved how they brought this show to life – from Nick’s wicked Richelieu, to Al’s enthusiastic D’Artagnan, Dan’s ludicrous King and, perhaps best of all, Matt’s film noir, femme fatale Milady – that was a particular joy. The stage manager – Abi Cowan moved around throughout re-arranging set, props and costumes – seamless, unobtrusive and a vital part of the troupe.
Le Navet Bete’s take on The Three Musketeers is a joyful, slightly bonkers, but artistically clever and accomplished piece of theatre which makes you sit back and wallow. A visual and aural feast – like the crunch of a good French stick and the soft satisfaction of a decent Brie! Enormous fun!
DAN BIANCHI, NICK BUNT, AL DUNN, MATT FREEMAN
WRITTEN BY; JOHN NICHOLSON & LE NAVET BETE
DIRECTOR – JOHN NICOLSON
MOVEMENT & CO-DIRECTOR – LEA ANDERSON
SET DESIGN – TI GREEN
COSTUME DESIGN – FI RUSSELL
COMPOSER – PETER COYTE
LIGHTING DESIGN – MARCUS BARTLETT
PHOTO CREDIT – MARK DAWSON