A NEW and original play adapting the classic story of The Three Musketeers will premiere in
A NEW and original play adapting the classic story of The Three Musketeers will premiere in Henley in September.
The show charts a theatre company’s attempt to tour their own production of the same title in wartime England in the Forties.
It is brought to the Kenton Theatre by writer and director Ian McFarlane and producer Oli Seadon who put on last year’s Christmas pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.
Matt Ian Kelly, who starred as Dame Trott in that box office record-breaking production, also makes a return to that New Street theatre stage.
He will play Cecil Paige, who in turn takes on the role of Porthos and Milady de Winter in this ambitious comic reworking of the Alexandre Dumas classic.
Peter Duncan, the former Blue Peter presenter, plays Aubrey Everett, the director that insists he ought to be playing D’Artagnan.
Other cast members will be announced in due course.
The story is set in 1942 and theatre director Aubrey Everett, who is famous for all the wrong reasons, is touring his own adaptation of the Three Musketeers.
But the vast majority of his cast and crew is stuck on a train near Salisbury after an air raid took out the bridge over the River Avon.
The set also took a wrong turn and ended up in the Swindon area while the costumes were sent to Canterbury in the confusion. However, Aubrey realises that prolific film producer Arnold St Arnold is in the audience and, with a cast of just four, and a hard-pressed pianist underscoring it all, they battle with a distinct lack of props, set, costumes, actors — and with each other.
Seadon says the production is an irreverent take on the original exemplified by Duncan playing D’Artagnan at the age of 62.
“Peter will play D’Artagnan, despite being 40 years too old,” he says. “The other guys then play all the other roles. So it’s sort of The Play That Goes Wrong, that sort of feeling.
“We will tell the story but it will be very silly with, you know, lots of props and, you know, dashing on and off and playing multiple roles at the same time. There will also be stuff with puppetsâ€¦ it will be an irreverent take on it.” McFarlane, who previously directed Duncan in Betwixt! at Trafalgar Studios in London, says he wanted to come back to the Kenton.
“It’s such a brilliant venue for comedy,” he said. “The audience is so close to the action. Our Three Musketeers isn’t going to be a traditional adaptation.
“We’ll tell the story and stay true to it, but there’ll be plenty of silliness, too, as the cast of four battle to play around 50 characters using whatever they can get their hands on around the theatre.
“Peter Duncan’s style is embedded in variety and vaudeville — I’m thrilled he’s joining us.”
Duncan, who has appeared in the UK tours of Birdsong and Hairspray and wrote and directed the Oxford Playhouse pantomime for eight years until 2014, can’t wait to get started. The Three Musketeers is perfect for an irreverent and affectionate freewheeling comedy adaptation,” he said. “It’s the kind of show I’ve wanted to do for years.”
He added: “I’m absolutely delighted we’re premiering it in beautiful Henley, Ian tells me the theatre is a real gem and I can’t wait to get started.”
The great irony of this production, which has the tag-line “All for one and every man for himself”, is that Seadon’s aim, like that of the characters, is also to tour the show.
“My aim is to basically try it out,” he said. “I love the theatre, I think it’s great, and it’s a good place to try to sort of start stuff off because you’ve got a good, supportive audience.”
After the run at Henley, which is from September 1 to 17, Seadon is hoping to tour the show next year.
“I want to try and tour it next autumn,” he said, “probably for about three months at the larger venues and then try and bring it to, not a West End venue, but a smaller London venue.
“We’ll have to see but that’s our aim anyway. So we’re sort of using the Kenton as a launchpad for a more expensive tour.”
Ed Simons, the chairman of trustees of the Kenton and executive producer of the production, added: “It is a tribute to our theatre that West End producers and directors want to showcase their work here.”
Tickets are now on sale. For more information or to book, call (01491) 575698 or visit www.kentontheatre.co.uk