In this adaptation, written by Daniel Winder, the character Milady de Winter is put front and centre, and the play looks at her back story rather than simply focusing attention on the Musketeers. This particular narrative meant that the Musketeers’ characters in particular weren’t quite as well-defined in this script as we’ve seen elsewhere. D’Artagnan’s rise to the rank of Musketeer was almost a bit of a footnote in the play, when this version had the character portrayed as female, which should have made the tale all the more remarkable. However, given the time devoted to telling Milady’s story, which was no bad thing by the way, the three Musketeers’ and D’Artagnan’s narratives felt a bit clumsy by comparison, and they were almost written as pantomime characters.
These are all issues with the script though, which the performers had no hand in, so that aside, let’s look at what the group produced between them.
Charlotte Pound dazzled throughout as Milady, every word pitched with the right amount of gravitas, every movement and reaction delivered faithfully to her character. Whilst her performance was excellent in its entirety, she was also one of the standouts when it came to swordfighting.
The actors portraying the Musketeers and D’Artagnan did a fine job with what they had to work with. Jose Tarouca looked every inch a Musketeer, and gave a measured, thoughtful performance as Aramis, and also a confident cameo as the King. Thomas Lloyd-Edwards was great as Athos, clearly very adept with a sword in hand, and he very much looked the part when called upon to fight. He did manage to upstage himself though as the ridiculous and hilarious Lord Buckingham, which allowed him to show his versatility as both a dramatic and comedic actor. Bradley Clarke as Porthos had probably the least to work with, which was a shame, because he had a real presence about him on stage and made the most of the physical side of his character. Aimee Wright as D’Artagnan also made the most of what she had to play with. She was very natural in her delivery, skilful with a sword, and her comic timing was impeccable.
Beyond the five lead characters, and there was some particularly fine performances from Jen Alexander as the Cardinal, Rebeka Igneczi as the Queen, and David Newham as Lord de Winter.
Jen stalked the stage with such elegance yet menace as the Cardinal and despite being a nasty piece of work, the character that is, was wonderful to watch. Rebeka provided a majestic presence as the Queen, seemingly gliding around the room at times. She was more than just a pretty face though, showing moral fortitude to try and prevent Lord Buckingham from starting a war, and then joining forces with the Musketeers at the end. Rebeka was also another whose skills with a sword were a cut above. David Newham displayed his obvious stagecraft with crisp, clear diction, and his experience shone through as he almost seemed to raise the levels of those around him at times.
On the comedy side of things, Diane Webb and Shem Jacobs were the stars. Shem, as the put-upon Planchet also didn’t have a huge amount to work with, but made the most of it with his movement, facial expressions, comic timing, and his rich tone of voice. Diane absolutely killed it as the hostess, rinsing every drop of comedy from the script in a series of scenes which would have been funny on the page. However, she brought the scene to life to maximum effect with her range of voices and her physical acting. It was a masterclass.
As far as the production side went, the set appeared relatively simple yet effective, with the fairly large projection screen quickly transporting us from one scene to the next. The balcony with staircase leading down to the floor looked impressive, and it was great to have split levels, but it did come at the expense of the playing space on the floor, which the actors would have benefited from particularly in the fight sequences. Some of the action that took place upstairs also couldn’t be seen by audience members sitting on the left-hand side of the auditorium, which was a shame, but it was to the actors’ credit that they projected well enough that we could still hear them clearly.
The adventurous, theatrical music was good, but not nearly loud enough to invoke the sense of drama that they were probably hoping to stir up, although that can be easily addressed of course.
A special mention must also go to The Maddermarket’s magnificent wardrobe department, who must have had their work cut out with such a large cast and a number of characters to cater for, but every costume piece looked superb.
Putting aside my personal reservations with the script, and this is a show where you can tell the cast were having a great time, and the Director has been meticulous with the detail, and it’s all added up to a hugely enjoyable, fun family show, and one that I would heartily recommend.