The Three Musketeers

Wed 7th – Sat 10th March 2012

reviews

Chelsey Stuyt

at 09:58 on 8th Mar 2012

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Pantomine is a tricky thing to get right. It's all in the actors' ability to carry off absurdity with confidence, as well as the well-timed flourish of an eyebrow. However, while Bristol University Pantomime Society's 'The Three Musketeers' mustered an impressive show, they failed to sing and dance their way into our hearts.

Charles Scherer's script is brilliant. It stays true to the arc of the original while playing fast and loose with the comedy of pantomime. He uses the familiar story of the nefarious Cardinal Richelieu and his regicidal scheming to take the throne of France for his own. The only thing standing in his way are the drunk (Athos), the wrestler (Porthos), the priest (Aramis), and an overconfident youngster (D'Artagnan). The jokes and innuendo gave the audience an incurable case of the giggles. The highlight, however, was the delightfully punny line, “arms for the poor”, although perhaps it was all in Sam Briggs’s delivery and his hilariously over the top “beggar”. Never have I seen such a fine use of "crazy eyes".

While the majority of the actors pulled off their roles with aplomb, there were several standouts. Tom Brown as “Nanny Nourrice” (the dame) was fantastic and he played his “card” to the “hilt”. Both he and Tom Bridges' “King Louis” truly seemed to relish their roles. The characterization done by Bridges was incredible, particularly the stutter. He stole every scene he “entered”.

Unfortunately, this otherwise fantastic show had its legs cut out from under it during the song and dance numbers. The actors were just not comfortable with this type of foolery and this discomfort was felt by the audience. By the final number I was cringing at the robotic dancing and tone-deaf singing. The show would have been much better without it. That being said, both Porthos and Aramis (Rob Allcott and Peter Bagot) stood out as being game to hop around. Though not fantastic dancers, they appeared to be comfortable with that and it made all the difference.

On a technical level, the lead singers should have been miked – especially during the final number. The audience didn't even realize that there was singing until the everyone burst into the chorus. The stage direction was well done, and the costumes were actually rather impressive. Their power was in their simplicity. Who knew all you need is a feather and a bolt of felt and you've got a musketeer ready to defend his king?

Overall, PantoSoc's “Three Musketeers” is a wonderful way to spend an evening. Though the singing and dancing need some work, the jokes and the acting are more than a reason to see it. I wouldn't be surprised if, in a few years, you see a some of these actors on the big stages and in the big boy pantomimes.

As D'Artagnan says when he enters Paris, “this is definitely opportunity I smell, not syphilis.”

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