The Three Musketeers by ReStage & Nightshade Productions
York city centre, July 25, 2014
D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers are invading our streets with their laughters, quarrels, and triumphs. Nightshade Productions and ReStage, two local companies that specialise in immersive theatre and site-specific performance, have come together to adapt Dumas’ classic specifically for the historical streets of York.
The audience is accompanied through Shambles by Cardinal Richelieu (Lee Gemmell) who also acts as narrator. In the market we meet the musketeers for the first time: James Witchwood, Ben Sawyer and Richard Bevan respect those characteristics literature, theatre, and cinema have taught us about religious Aramis, dandy Porthos and heartbroken Athos.
The young and naive D’Artagnan (Jimmy Johnson) ends up annoying all of them before even being able to present his intention of joining the group.
He will have to face them in a duel that will unexpectedly unite the four of them through the famous bonds of brotherhood.
D’Artagnan then has to face the intrigues set up by Milady de Winter (Natalie Bowers) and Richelieu against the Queen of France Anne (Naomi Lombard).
She is guilty of betraying the King (Damian Freddi) but she is also a woman entrapped in her obligations to an institution that submits any form of love to power.
D’Artagnan meanwhile falls in love with the young and brave Constance (Imogen Little) and Aramis reveals his pain in a moving monologue about his love misfortunes.
The play highlights the amusing moments of the novel, but it’s not scared to enact also the darkest events, violent deaths, lost hopes, and betrayal.
The mise-en-scene presents many challenges in the unpredictability of live streets: noisy pubs, tourists’ infiltrations, traffic, buskers. For this reason, the play gives its best when the audience is guided through the most intimate York places, like St Andrewsgate and the beautiful Holy Trinity Church yard.
In some moments the immersive flair is unavoidably lost, to be regained when the cast itself guides the audience. Given those challenges, it would have been good, if sustainable, to limit the number of the audience, so to encourage closeness and offer everyone a better chance to listen to the actors’ lines.
Overall, however, The Three Musketeers is entertaining and amusing, with dynamic duels, hilarious press comments, and cheeky references to the recent Tour de France, in the spirit of “all for one and one for all”.
This is the lesson that turns D’Artagnan from a young man to a brave musketeer: the awareness that if you expect the world to live for you, you have to be ready to live for the world.