Director & Choreographer: David Nixon OBE
Scenario: David Drew MBE
Music: Sir Malcolm Arnold
Reviewer: Beverley Haigh
The Three Musketeers is the latest storytelling ballet in Northern Ballet’s repertoire. Having recently deviated from this winning formula to bring a successful contemporary Mixed Programme, they are now back to doing what they are renowned for and do so well. Originally conceived as a ballet in 2006 by Artistic Director David Nixon OBE The Three Musketeers is based on a scenario written by David Drew MBE, accompanied by an original score composed by Sir Malcolm Arnold. Sadly, Sir Malcolm Arnold passed away on the night of the world premiere but The Three Musketeers went on to achieve worldwide success and now Nixon has revived and refreshed his ballet for new audiences as part of Northern Ballet’s current tour.
Those looking for a literal translation of Alexandre Dumas’ historical tale of adventure and political intrigue may be left slightly confounded with this adaptation of The Three Musketeers. With so much narrative to convey in a two-act ballet, it is not always easy to follow, despite Northern Ballet doing their utmost to simplify it. However, the plot becomes more focused on Queen Anne’s affair with the Duke of Buckingham (Joseph Taylor) and a missing necklace and less so the story of the travels of young nobleman d’Artagnan as he sets off for Paris in search of camaraderie in the hope of joining the Musketeers of the Guard.
As ever with Northern Ballet, this is not of huge concern as the plot becomes secondary to the exquisite performance and majestic setting. Not only is the set evocative of 17th Century Paris, from village scenes to walls that open up like a luxurious Christmas Card to reveal the royal palace, complementing the beautiful pas de deux between the Queen and the Duke but so too is Sir Malcolm Arnold’s sumptuous score, which is a joy to listen to with or without the addition of the ballet. The bejewelled costumes and dresses which waft and open like fans are also perfectly in keeping with the era, belying the fact that this is indeed a contemporary piece of work, instead more aligned with a traditional classical ballet.
There are some exceptional scenes from the delightful Nina Queiroz da Silva as the Queen, defying gravity with her weightless and delicate movements, her lightness of touch ensuring a captivating performance. Kevin Poeung is the very essence of d’Artagnan, perfectly cast as the naïve hopeful hero stumbling across his future allies. Alongside the secure ballet work, the musketeers manage the feat of mastering and performing technically accomplished sword skills (perfected with the assistance of Leeds Fencing Club); the only downside of this inclusion is that there is not more of this, the musketeers being overshadowed by other characters and disappointingly they don’t appear enough. Although the roles of Athos, Porthos and Aramis are portrayed slightly as caricatures, their comedic interjection is welcomed, adding an additional dimension to the piece. There are laugh out loud moments when puppet horses appear in silhouette and the final scene becomes most farcical where the fateful necklace is returned to its rightful owner amid chaos and confusion, it is a great strength that the piece does not take itself too seriously.
Amongst the revelry from the musketeers there are some regal and elegant performances; a jewel of a ballet and befitting of an ‘artistic gem in the North of England’. Northern Ballet continues to shine.
Runs until 27th October 2018 | Image: contributed