The Three Musketeers
Friday, September 2
A PLAY within a play is a fairly popular device in the theatrical experience, but when it comes to watching a play within a play within a play it takes a bit of adjusting to before you establish exactly where you are.
The Three Musketeers, now showing at the Kenton Theatre in Henley begins with the explanation by theatrical impresario Aubrey Everett (exuberantly played by former Blue Peter star Peter Duncan) that the expected cast of 40 players can’t get to the theatre in time.
But as the show must go on it will now be presented as best they can by the four surviving actors.
To make matters worse they have no scenery or props and must make do with what they can find at the theatre.
Then there is a surprising revelation — Aubrey has spotted a famous film producer in the audience and proceeds to throw everything into his interpretation of D’Artagnan in a bid to win a film contract and propel his flagging career to new heights.
So now we know where we are, and from there on in it’s “hold on to your seats” as Alexandre Dumas’s classic tale is (more or less) told by virtue of much changing of characters and costumes by Duncan and his three enormously talented sidekicks — Matt Ian Kelly, Matt Jamie and Tom Wainwright.
Their performances were fantastic and left you much in awe of their talent and energy. They wrung so much fun from every second of the fast-paced action, which was crammed with silly jokes and innuendo, with the occasional song and dance, mime and puppetry thrown in for good measure.
And all the while Alex Beetschen lurked in the background at the piano, supporting the action splendidly with his effective music. There were many moments of sheer genius in this funny and rather tumultuous production — a superb fight scene where the “enemy” were fought by being attached to the end of the musketeers’ swords; a little gem of a mime scene where Matt Jamie’s arms became the legs of a ballerina; not to mention Peter Duncan’s almost one-man-show where he danced to so many different tunes during the ball scene.
Written and directed by Ian McFarlane — who did the same job on Jack and the Beanstalk at Christmas — the show comes across as a good-natured cross between pantomime and Horrible Histories, and is brought off by the talent, energy and sheer stamina of the cast.
Perhaps some of Aubrey Everett’s interventions seemed a little too much to handle, and you need to be able to take jokes like “I hate to see you distressed — yes, it’s not my favourite but it’s wash-day” — but all in all the production is a fantastic romp and a really fun evening out.
The Three Musketeers: All for One and Every Man for Himself! — to give the production its full title — is playing at the Kenton until Saturday, September 17.
Tickets can be booked at www.kentontheatre.co.uk
or by calling (01491) 575698.
The box office at the New Street theatre is also open to callers in person from 11am to 3pm on weekdays and 10am to 1pm on Saturdays.
Review by Mary Scriven