Feel good gender-blind production of much loved classic
By Narelle Wood
The 3 Musketeers has everything it needs – swashbuckling, ill-fated love affairs and a plot to overthrow the throne – for an enthralling couple of hours of rollicking around the stage.
Porthos, vivaciously portrayed by Scott Jackson, first introduces us to the young D’Artagnan (Lore Burns) and then continues to offer exposition as the young wannabe Musketeer exploits unfold. For those unfamiliar with the story, the Queen (Victoria Haslam) is in love, not with the King (also played by Jackson), but with the Duke of Buckingham (Angelique Malcolm). The Cardinal sensing an opportunity for royal mutiny sets his minions, Rochefort (Lucy Norton) and Milady (Craig Cremin), to intervene and expose the Queen’s love affair. The Musketeers, informed of the Queen’s troubles, through D’Artagnan via the Queen’s seamstress Constance (James Malcher), pledge to protect the Queen and bring down the Cardinal. Misadventure, intrigue and lots of drinking and fighting ensues.
Natasha Broadstock’s adaptation stays relatively true to the original, highlighting the comradery of the Musketeers and the turmoil of Royal court at the hands of the sinister Cardinal, even with the Cardinal never actually appearing in the play. One of the key differences in this production is the gender-blind casting of the roles, and while it would be easy to dismiss this as a ‘production in drag’, nothing is further from the truth. Cremin’s Milady is truly menacing as much as it is manipulative and Malcher is adorable as Constance giving absolute credence to Broadstock’s rationale that “gender is a facet of character, and that playing a gender is part of playing a role”. Broadstock’s direction seemed to find many opportunities for some comedy, whether it be a karaoke-style musical number or the realities of drinking too much – which the Musketeers seem to do a lot of. These moments meant that the play was more about the relationships between Porthos, Athos (Broadstock), Aramis (Malcolm) and D’Artagnan and less about the potential tragedy lurking in the background.
It is really hard to say what my favourite thing about the play was. Jackson’s portrayal of Porthos was charming as much as it was egocentric, and Burns as D’Artagnan was equal parts naivety and bravado, epitomising the eager wannabe Musketeer. It was such a strong cast that it must be said that Broadstock definitely achieved her aim in casting the best person for each part, even with Broadstock stepping in at the last moment as Athos, to replace an ill Joti Gore. The costumes (Romy Sweetnam) were amazing and the venue, Bluestone Church Arts Space, was the perfect setting for a play set in 17th century France. The only thing was that it was occasionally hard to hear some of the dialogue over the footsteps on floorboards and the clinking of swords, but this was seldom an issue.
I find it a little disconcerting that I found myself smiling and laughing the whole way through this production, given the tragic storyline of betrayal and murder. I never thought I would say that seeing a tragedy was a feel-good night out, but The 3 Musketeers is exactly that, and this production has only increased my love for this classic tale.
The 3 Musketeers is being performed at Bluestone Church Arts Space, Footscray until 11 August. Tickets can be purchased online.
Photographs: Michael Foxington