Authored by Alexandre Dumas in 1844, The Three Musketeers is one of the most beloved historical romps of all time.
It is the story of a young man, D’Artagnan, making it his life’s mission to join the Musketeers Of The Guard. Though not immediately accepted into the fold, he meets three key members from the army, and along the way, becomes entwined in their escapades.
The popularity of Dumas’ tale is such, it has been reimagined many times for movies and television, comic books, video games, and even an internet – based web series.
Two back – to – back filmed versions directed by Richard Lester, The Three Musketeers (1973) and its sequel, The Four Musketeers (1974), have held particular fascination with Natasha Broadstock. The local director, actor and writer’s dream was to one day adapt her own version for the stage.
Recently interviewed for a feature profile by Theatre People’s Kris Weber, this transfer has been quite the journey. The article also details the countless challenges faced with creating a piece of independent theatre from scratch. Broadstock called on many friends and industry colleagues for help. There was even a fund – raising campaign established in tandem with the ambitious project. The phrase, ‘It takes a village’ really holds true here.
With her love for Dumas’ story shining through, Broadstock’s neat and playful interpretation keeps one’s interest at all times. There is never a dull moment. Clocking in at two hours (plus a twenty minute interval), this is an accessible outing which takes viewers everywhere.
Broadstock’s vision also features clever touches of artistic licence. She sprinkles several moments with tongue – in – cheek charm; these particular inclusions reminded me of Baz Luhrmann’s take on Romeo & Juliet and Salome (by Little Ones Theatre).
Situated twenty minutes west of the CBD in Footscray, The Bluestone Church Arts Space is a good choice for this kind of venture. A former chapel, the durable venue is now dedicated entirely to live theatre. In fact, two years ago a previous piece staged by Broadstock’s team, Demens, was also held here.
It should be mentioned for this production, seating is set up entirely in the round.
With its high vaulted ceiling and polished wooden floor, much of the atmospheric groundwork necessary to the show’s success is already locked in place. Mindful of these factors, props by Romy Sweetnam and Victoria Haslam are streamlined and spare. Actual staging features a tiered steel scaffold at one end of the performing area, and a black curtained exit at the other. (The actors also take full advantage of the building’s layout; their sudden appearances at times are quite unexpected.)
Sweetnam is also responsible for the elaborate, elegant, and era – specific costumes. Her uniform collection informs the audience, as well as supporting and enhancing each character’s motivation.
Lighting by John Collopy consists of four free standing spotlight tripods, positioned at each corner of the room. Cues are made up of fades between scenes, and colour changes where the mood suits.
Patrick Slee’s sound design is clean and clear at all times, allowing audience members to enjoy underscored moments of classical and contemporary music to excellent effect. These choices are used to highlight either the narrative’s slapstick comedy or searing drama.
Viewers will recognise everything from Erik Satie’s ‘Gnoissienne No.1’, Ennio Moriconne’s and Vladimir Cosma’s ‘Sentimental Walk’ (from Diva), ‘Walking On Sunshine’ (by Katrina & The Waves), and ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ (by Tears For Fears). (Lore Burns was in charge of the show’s musical arrangements.)
Seamless technical support allows one’s primary focus to be kept on the play and the text, with Maureen White monitoring both sound and lighting operation.
Very much a group – based trust exercise, Broadstock directs with an extra ingredient thrown into the mix. Gender – bender casting gives the show heightened dimension, a component her actors appear to respect and relish.
With a strong list of performance credits between them, Lore Burns (as D’Artagnan), Craig Cremin (as Milady), Victoria Haslam (as The Queen), Scott Jackson (as Porthos / The King), James Malcher (as Constance), Angelique Malcolm (as Aramis / The Duke), and Lucy Norton (as Rochefort) all share legitimate chemistry. (Broadstock herself was a last – minute replacement for Athos when another actor, Joti Gore, took ill.)
As a team, the troupe’s strong connection with one another is balanced by moments of reflective solitude. Each player in essence, is given their moment in the sun.
As expected with the story’s inherent physical demands, there is the need for fight and dance choreography. (Jackson was the fight coordinator, with Burns, the fight captain. Gore was responsible for dance choreography.)
The company has realised an immersive and satisfying experience that succeeds on several levels.
Firstly, Broadstock has created an excellent introduction to serious live theatre, suitable for audiences of all ages. Secondly, the actors look like they are having so much fun, their shared enthusiasm makes one want to jump up and join in the action.
This is the kind of offering which would do well as a touring production for schools and other educational organisations, too.
Playing for a strictly – limited season, The 3 Musketeers runs until this Saturday.
Images: Michael Foxington