Karen Blake reviews Le Navet Bete and Exeter Northcott Theatre’s The Three Musketeers at Bristol Old Vic, playing until Sunday 8th March.
I fell in love with physical comedy theatre company Le Navet Bete when I saw them at Watchet Festival around eight years ago. It’s clear that lots of others fell in love with them too; this is the second time they have brought The Three Musketeers to the main theatre at the Bristol Old Vic and the run was a sell out last summer. It looks likely that this run will sell out too.
For this show, the company have taken on the classic historical adventure novel written in 1844 by French author Alexandre Dumas and condensed into two fast paced, frenetic and very funny hours. It is a perfect story for Le Navet Bete to take on, as the main theme running through the story is about the friendship of the Musketeers. It is clear that the chemistry and friendship between performers Dan Bianchi, Nick Bunt, Al Dunn and Matt Freeman is what brings their shows to life and keeps audiences coming back for more. At the beginning, the cast tell us that they have been friends since primary school, and they go on to play the Musketeers as if they are still schoolboys, hanging out in their treehouse with the whole summer stretching ahead of them. As well as this though, the cast play around 40 other characters and the success of all the quick changes that are needed is largely down to their brilliant stage manager Abi who manages to keep everything together. A mention for set designer Ti Green is important; the staging was brilliant, looked fantastic and allowed the momentum to be always up as scenes could be quickly adapted and set up to keep the story moving at pace. Necessary when you are taking on the narrative from a 700+ page book!
This show is everything that fans of Le Navet Bete will have come to love. There is loads of brilliant physical comedy, well choreographed and slightly silly fight scenes, audience participation and lots of laughs. There are some wonderful moments where the cast take to their steeds (kids bikes and scooters), and they even manage to make the death scenes hilarious. With everything that is happening in the world at the moment, this was exactly the kind of escapism and comedy that I needed. My friend who joined me for the evening had never seen the boys perform and it was a pleasure for me to introduce her to them. We belly laughed, giggled and had a thoroughly entertaining evening. The company aim to make theatre accessible to all as they believe it shouldn’t be elitist. If you want a great night out and to laugh lots at all the silliness then I can highly recommend this show. A quick note on the 8+ age recommendation though, although perfectly suitable for ages eight and above, some 8 year olds may find the show a little long and the plot hard to follow if they are unfamiliar with the story. However, much like me, they will probably just be giggling along with the grown ups at all the silliness.