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The Three Musketeers by John Nicholson and Le Navete Bete, Caxton Theatre Grimsby 30/11/21

Updated: Dec 5, 2021


The Three Musketeers by John Nicholson and Le Navete Bete

The Caxton Players

The Caxton Theatre Grimsby

4th - 11th December 2021

I have been trying to think of a way of describing Rob Till’s reputation as a director at the Caxton Theatre. I am reminded of the title of a documentary about Rik Mayall that was entitled The Lord of Misrule and I have decided that it suits Rob down to the ground. He has developed a reputation for directing mostly comedy and always fast-paced, frenetic and very, very funny. This Lord of Misrule has created another triumph with his latest play, The Three Musketeers written by John Nicholson and Le Navete Bete.

Here we have a comic version of Alexander Dumas’ novel that does its source material justice but its framing in this version is a clever take on a child’s eye view of the story. The four actors declare themselves to be lifelong friends, whose love of The Three Musketeers is capable of reminding them of their lost youth in which they explored the adventures whilst draped in the best their dressing up box had to offer, replete with wooden swords and shiny Chopper bikes doubling as their trusty steeds. And so, with this vision in mind, they set about to present THEIR version of the story with the four friends playing every role – male or female.

They claim that their set is a recreation of their childhood den but that does the set a disservice. It is a marvellous two-level set adorned with greenery and offering the potential to play on varied levels. The frantic action plays out across the entirety of the stage, often unseen at the Caxton Theatre and allows the actors the chance to deliver massive performances to fill this space, using swift costume changes involving wigs and curtains that double as tabards or capes. The action never lets up and the audience is swept up in a whirlwind of organised, well-drilled chaos.

Our four musketeers are Stewart Dodds as Athos, Kieron James as Athos, Stuart Stretton as Porthos and John Fergusson as D’Artagnon. It is clear that they are having the time of their lives dabbling with the traditional notion of the adventurous foursome. Many actors have made the roles their own, on stage and on screen, the Caxton Players have done precisely that as each inhabits not only their main character but also a whole series of other roles, some larger and some mere cameos. It is difficult to single any actor out as excelling in this production as every performance is superlative.

However, each manages to bring their own interpretation and compliments the work of their peers. This truly is one for all and all for one. John Ferguson plays the youthful arrogance and exuberance of D’Artagnon to the extreme self-effacingly mocking the notion of him being the most handsome of the cast. His floppy haired bravado makes for a youthful hero on a quest picking fights with anyone who offends him as he sets out to become the fourth musketeer. His cameo roles within the play offer him the chance to show other aspects than the square-jawed hero with aplomb.

Stewart Dodds’ mastery of accents is really used to terrific effect as he performs many of the supporting cast including the French King and the English Prime Minister, but his drunken captain and brutish husband and innkeeper enhance his overall offering within the show. When he plays a Scouse maid, I was chuckling away at the silliness of it all and his unforgiving nun was a stroke of genius.

Stuart Stretton, last seen as a soldier in the First World War drama, The Fulstow Boys, delivers a devilishly delicious performance of Richlieu, the scheming Cardinal but also manages to play D’Artagnon’s love interest and series of silly supporting characters – including a scantily clad barman. His superbly expressive face was a joy to photograph as he inhabited each role during the show.

Having first seen Kieron James in Pro Patria Mori in 2014. I am really impressed with his growth as a performer. He has thrown caution to the wind in this play and takes some real risks with his oft-played “hard man” role. Here, his dual portrayals of Milady and the Queen are absolute showstoppers and with the costume and wig changes, you forget who you are watching until he returns to his traditional shaven headed look as Aramis.

Although not credited as a performer in the production, special mention should also be made of stage manager Debbie Till, whose swift and efficient contributions to set changes and the odd cameo roles further enhance the enjoyment of the production. And in a nice touch, the sound and lighting operators – Debbie Shepherd and Carol Ladson join the cast bows at the curtain call.

I watched a dress rehearsal performance of this production and the one thing missing was an audience. Once the audience arrive, the theatre will rock the theatre, and we can look forward to a tsunami of laughter dominating the entire week of shows. Some tickets are still available for this wonderfully entertaining production, and I would suggest that if you have the chance to see it, you should. Its an absolute joy.

The play runs from the 4th – 11th December from 7:30pm. Tickets are available online from www.caxtontheatre.com and other outlets across the town.

Andy Evans

2nd December 2021

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