Friday, January 10, 2014

The Three Musketeers- Oxford Playhouse

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews

Barbershopera The Three Musketeers Oxford Playhouse

A collaborative effort from Rob Castell, Tom Sadler, and Sarah Tipple, has produced a reinvention of classic swashbuckler The Three Musketeers, performed with much gusto and frivolity by Barbershopera. A show that is “all for fun, and fun for all” it is cheesy and light hearted, but beneath all the bravado is a lovely, down to earth message about acceptance and equality.

The village of Pisipouville is facing a Roly Poly embargo, and as her brothers are not equipped to travel to Paris to seek the help of the Three Musketeers (one thinks he’s a pomegranate, the other is frightened of otters) the fate of her home town lies with Nicole D’Artagnan (Laura Darton). Disguised as a man with a very convincing moustache, our heroine joins up with the famous trio – Aramis (Pete Sorel-Cameron), Porthos (Harry Stone), and Athos (Russell Walker) – and, despite her comrades’ initial doubts, proves her worth in a male dominated world. With a combination of slick character changes and all round silliness this is not the Musketeers story we are used to, but it is certainly a unique theatrical experience and the vocal talent itself is definitely not something to be laughed at. Castell and Sadler’s original music and lyrics are bouncy and catchy, and the quartet’s harmonies complement each other and produce a really great sound.

The comedy is fairly old school with a bit of camp thrown in: exaggerated and flamboyant characters, cheeky puns, and some slapstick to name a few examples. Barbershopera have refreshed this style and made it their own, and the jokes flow naturally. An especially enjoyable character is Russell Walker’s Duke of Buckingham, whose pink cuffs and crisp French accent is a real joy. The cast overall do an excellent job of distinguishing the various characters they each perform, and even though the costume change may be just an exchange of a curly wig for the iconic Musketeer hat, the personalities have all been fine tuned.

The staging is very simplistic and the only furniture used throughout the performance is two benches and three chests. What is missing from the set is perhaps a back drop of some kind, as without it the show is a little bit like big kids playing dress up. Having said this, I wish my imaginary games as a child had been as fun and adventurous as this story.

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