The Three Musketeers and the Princess of Spain, Traverse Theatre, Review
This is a unique version of Alexander Dumas’ 1844 exciting, and at the time serialised, tale of the 17th century trio of swashbucklers and daring-doers with their young wannabe, D’Artagnan. Writer Chris Hannan has taken the spirit of the tale and, with insight into Dumas’ emotional isolation within his colourful and unusual life, has created a rumbustious, anarchic and thoroughly entertaining take on the original.
Before the broken gilt frame that fronts the set, we are treated to the decrepit jollity of three raggedy pantalooned strolling players who strummed and drummed jig, reel and hornpipe for our divertissement. In other words, the warm up act!
We learn that young D’Artagnan and his childhood love, Constance, have been separated and he has, in the process, lost his emotions. He then undertakes the mammoth task of saving the city and the pregnant Princess of Spain from the cunning Cardinal, so seeks the help of the exiled Musketeers.
However, these exiled heroes have gone to seed. Like wasted ageing rock stars, they are sated with drink, sex and vanity and not exactly in the peak of fitness to assist the ‘heartless’ hero in his search for ‘the most important thing in the world’.
The journey towards that goal is filled with slicing sword-fights, horrible imaginings of the likes of the ‘dead dog swamp’ and the ‘half eaten witch’, scary puppets like the nightmare version of Emu and red-eyed sharp toothed wolves and the crescent face of a miserable moon hanging in the background.
This is laced with malapropisms, rhymes, puns and scatological fun and an irreverent nod to the Nativity scene. We meet the utterly horrific monster Lord Mandible, a slimy blood dripping creature operated by three skilled puppeteers whose presence isn’t hidden yet is completely unobtrusive. Mandible’s death is a strangely moving scene.
The cast is incredibly versatile. Each time I looked, there was a different actor playing the drums and how Sarah Bedi (Denise) made that baby sound was miraculous! There was a sense at times of being at a Tiger Lillies concert with some of the bizarre but hilarious happenings in this riotous piece of cabaret theatre that was performed with elan in exquisitely shabby costumes.
Peter Forbes was outstanding as Porthos, playing him in a truly OTT camp-as-Christmas style that took me back to watching Lex McLean at the Glasgow Pavilion but with many fairy bells on.
Paul Trussell as a gormless Brummy Le Noir was a treat with his malleable features and body language amusing in every scene. Beatriz Romilly’s “...posh as a pineapple” Princess of Spain was just perfect with her nose in the air to deny her bump and Clive Mendus’ presence rendered the Cardinal as menacing as I suspect he was. In this production of pandemonium, it was good to see the principles the Cardinal loathed – humanity and freedom - win out.
This is fantastic entertainment for a wide range of ages but while the programme says ‘age 8 upwards’, I would think 10 would be a better mark considering some of the adult content. My eleven year old companion gave it 9 ½ out of 10!
Till 24 December - times vary