adapted by Carl Miller from the novel by Alexandre Dumas.

Unicorn Theatre (Weston auditorium) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 8 May 2011.
10.30am 27 April, 4, 6 May.
1.30pm 14-17, 19-21, 23, 28, 30 April, 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 May.
5.30pm 16, 21, 30 April.
7pm 14, 20, 28 April, 7 May.
Audio-described 5, 8 May.
Captioned 6 May, 7 May 1.30pm.
Autism Friendly 30 April 1.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 17, 27 April, 30 April 5.30pm, 3 May.
Run 2hr 45min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 April.

Swaggering adventure with thoughtful moments.
They challenge each other with slaps, they’ll fight anyone with swords. Only rarely do they fire a gun; musketeering seems almost incidental to this one-for-all and all-for-one trio. But, as Carl Miller’s adaptation mentions in a less active moment, muskets are old-fashioned, and musketeers themselves under fire from the new morality of The Cardinal.

As he’s also against duelling, this Cardinal might seem civilised and civilising, even if he uses a branded felon as a secret agent. But Alexandre Dumas père prefers the alcohol-guzzling, sexually predatory, cavalier lifestyle of Athos, Porthos and Aramis, plus wannabe musketeer D’Artagnan (from Gascony, later hymned in Edmund Rostand’s flamboyant Cyrano de Bergerac).

No wonder this show’s restricted to 10+. And that the first act, having made play with the characters, and their swords, can only sketch the story of the queen’s diamonds. Post-interval, the action of Rosamunde Hutt’s unfussy, largely modern-dress production slows slightly to deal with darker subjects; the imprisonment of D’Artagnan’s married lover, a death and a brief scene where D’Artagnan hands bread to a starving girl wandering near besieged La Rochelle, learning it’s too late for her family. All dead, he’s told in two quiet words that register amid the flourishes of language and blades elsewhere.

That’s partly because they’re spoken by Amaka Okafor, who has been a consistent strength of the Unicorn’s acting ensemble over the past two years. And if the ensemble has now to end (funding again)* this show will be a tribute to the way it has given space for its members to grown in range and confidence, each giving strength and character to productions that separately-hired actors would find hard to match.

So with John Cockerill, making a triangular contrast of the flowery Aramis, lover of religious ritual, plain servant Planchet and still, calculating Cardinal (always alone or coldly distanced, unlike the comradely Musketeers). All work with physical stamina and commitment – necessary as they move and duel swiftly around Christopher Faulds’ set of gleaming poles plus wooden steps and platforms – creating a sense of a cast far more numerous than this six-for-one and one-for-six company.

Porthos/Kitty/Queen: Samantha Adams.
Aramis/Planchet/Cardinal: John Cockerill.
Milady: Julie Hewlett.
D’Artagnan: Liam Lane.
Rochefort/Athos/Buckingham: Eric Nzaramba.
Constance/Landlady/Monsieur de Treville/Jussac/Felton/Child: Amaka Okafor.

Director: Rosamunde Hutt.
Designer: Christopher Faulds.
Lighting: Ian Scott.
Sound/Composer: Lewis Gibson.
Movement: Dan O’Neill.
Fight Directors: Rachel Bown-Williams, Ruth Cooper-Brown.
Assistant director: Liam Lane.
Fight captain: John Cockerill.

Hopeful news from the Unicorn. Their acting ensemble has been funded for the last 3 years by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which is happy to renew funding but is awaiting the appointment of a new Artistic Director to replace Tony Graham, and other executive appointments, presumably to ensure the new people want to continue the ensemble.
This has been enlightened support by the Foundation which has enhanced theatregoing and performances for young people, and any new artistic director who doesn’t want to continue the ensemble is going to have to endure – at the very least – a one-man protest by me. Here’s hoping it won’t be necessary.

2011-04-14 12:52:19

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