Writer: Hattie Naylor
Director: Sarah Punshon
Reviewer: May Mellstrom
The sun will certainly be shining on Williamson Park this summer; not only is it the perfect place to enjoy the rare heatwave but The Dukes’ production of The Three Musketeers burns almost as brightly in what must surely be their most joyful park show yet.
Playwright Hattie Naylor adapts Alexander Dumas’ 1844 classic novel with flair; deftly re-telling a tale packed with adventure, intrigue and romance in an accessible way for families of all ages. In a contemporary twist, D’Artagnan is a female pretending to be male in order to journey to Paris and become a Musketeer. Her first encounter with her heroes doesn’t quite go to plan, but soon they team up to protect Queen Anne from Cardinal Richelieu and his nefarious schemes to start a war. As the bold and enthusiastic D’Artagnan, Lucy Jane Parkinson is a spirited lead and has the audience on side from the start.
With an opening scene of only five minutes, the spectators barely have time to get comfortable before the story moves on and although the play then settles into five lengthier scenes, the breakneck pace continues throughout. With thrilling swordfights and swashbuckling adventure, each scene is full of action and drama alongside a script packed with one-liners and humour that appeals to adults and children alike.
Delme Thomas as the flamboyant King Louis and Christopher Bianchi’s lovable cart horse Planchet get the majority of the laughs but with most of the cast playing multiple roles, Bianchi soon turns those laughs into hisses, doubling as the villainous Cardinal to excellent effect. The whole cast work extremely hard throughout, with lots of quick changes between characters, often within the same scene. Rebecca Banatvala is both a charming Aramis and treacherous Milady and Helen Katamba switches with ease between fashion-conscious Porthos and regal Queen Anne. As third Musketeer, Athos, Milton Lopes is full of charisma and Nisa Cole’s kind-hearted Constance proves the ideal match for D’Artagnan.
It is the inclusion of this subplot that renders the finale surprisingly poignant. D’Artagnan may be fearless when it comes to battle, but not when it comes to revealing her true nature to Constance. The matter-of-fact response to this is a wonderful moment and epitomises the life-affirming nature of this production.
The creative team, particularly designer Barney George, have also ensured The Three Musketeers looks and sounds fantastic; the costumes are elegant, the firelit woods are atmospheric and although there are no original songs this year, the music choices are entirely fitting, it’s impossible not to smile when descending from ‘Paris’ to ‘England’ to the sound of London Calling.
It all leads to a genuinely uplifting finale, that manages to be both silly and sweet and is frankly the most fun you will have inside or outside a theatre this summer. Director Sarah Punshon has exceeded all expectations with her first park show; an inclusive and joyous celebration of love and diversity, entirely suited to family audiences and an adaptation that truly epitomises the motto of The Musketeers, ‘All for one and one for all’.
Runs until 18th August 2018 | Image: Claire Griffiths.