Iris Theatre returns to St Paul’s Church in a promenade performance of this 19th-century French classic.
Jenny Horsthuis plays d’Artagnan with an interesting twist in this adaptation from Daniel Winder, she is female but disguised as a young boy so she can take part in the all things that she couldn’t in her biological sex guise. Her fellow Musketeers are played by Elliot Libburd (Porthos), Matt Stubbs (Athos) and Albert De Jongh (Aramis) when she crosses the Cardinal Richelieu’s (Matt Stubbs) red guards she finds herself in an audience with the King and Queen of France (Elliot Liburd and Bethan Rose Young) and on a mission to retrieve the Queen’s diamonds from Lord Buckinghamshire (Albert De Jongh) and making an enemy of Milady De Winter (Alissa Joy), a spy and traitor with connections to seemingly everyone.
Alissa Joy is fabulous as Milady, with her deep voice and radiance Winter has written a character I can immediately relate with; she has no time for men and will happily take them on in sword fights. Can we please have a play about her and her life?
Roger Bartlett’s fight direction is one of the highlights as the nature and length of the performance can often get a bit stale. Winter’s writing is good but it is unsure where it wants to be a well-written drama with warmth and humour or a full on summer panto. Billed as a family show there are some risqué lines about religious people being on their knees (all while said near the church, clutch a pearl!) and the inn called ‘The Flying Fu*’ The promenade nature, which opened different settings across the site, slowed down the production as the routes to venues were narrow, temporary stairs. It didn’t always feel safe or the most accessible production and in a show aimed at families meant there were feral children running around the set and getting in the way of key scenes. I commend the cast for their patience.
Horsthius as the lead also brought some complexity to the role, which could be painted as a non-binary/transgender but it was simply a case of a woman who had to be deceptive to get her way, as De Wynter says “in another life we could have been friends” I enjoyed Stephan Boyce as an array of supporting characters as with the aid of costume and accent he could have made a confusing scenario more complex.
Where this production shined was making it feel like a theatre show in an atypical setting with Abby&Alice’s simple set design assisted by Ciaran Cunningham’s lighting (particularly strong in the church scenes) across the site making each scene feel unique and Kathleen Nellis costumes helped to convey the sense of time and place. Adam Welsh (yes, of There for the Grace of God (Go I))’s sound design gave this an almost film-like feel and whilst the audience weren’t always up for a song and dance Nick Hart’s music also gave this production an immersive feel.
As performances go the cast was energetic, particularly the injured Albert De Jongh, but that energy didn’t always translate into the production. It is too long and could do with a good 30 minutes cut, for example, do we need to see The Three Musketeers rescued in the second half which is basically the same scene three times which means we don’t get enough of Milady’s showdown with her past? This is still a fun summer show but it needs to recognise its audience better.
The Three Musketeers is on until 2 September, tickets from £20 http://iristheatre.com/event/the-three-musketeers/