The Stratford Files: The Three Musketeers.

The Three Musketeers is the theatrical equivalent to a blockbuster movie. The set is large and impressive, there are a number of very well-choreographed action scenes and the characters are all larger than life. This is inevitable because the original novel by Alexandre Dumas was like this in many ways and the play captures the spirit of the original novel quite well. Of course, since the play has much less time to dwell on the characters they seem even more exaggerated than they did in the original. For example, d’Artagnon seems much less intelligent than he was in the original novel, however this is not necessarily a bad thing as it makes for a very entertaining play.
The principle actors that the play depends upon are of course the musketeers themselves and they’re all great. Luke Humphrey does a splendid job portraying d’Artagnon’s wide-eyed idealism and dreams for his future. Jonathan Goad is great as Porthos, doing a great job of portraying the character’s boisterous and reckless personality. He’s particularly good since Porthos is a character that is easy to make seem utterly bumbling and buffoonish, so I’m glad this version doesn’t go down this road, keeping him boisterous and clearly not all that intelligent, but keeping the more cunning elements of his character and reminding us in all the fight scenes that he is a very accomplished brawler. Mike Shara does a fine job portraying the gentlemanly and dandified Aramis. He shows the character’s somewhat aloof and devoutly religious side, but also emphasizes the character’s romantically poetic and dreamy poetic side. This can especially be seen in one of his first scenes when he is asked to recite some of his poetry by his fellow musketeers and he feigns modesty, but when they say they really liked one of his poems he is unable to hide his reaction, grinning and asking, “Did you really?”
However, probably the standout performance of the play is Graham Abby as Athos who gives the character a quiet dignity and an easy charisma that makes him wonderful to watch, while also capturing the darker elements of the character, such as his anger and his slightly ruthless streak. He manages to make Athos a fascinating character with a tragic dimension which makes him all the more interesting.
A solid supporting cast rounds out the play. Amand Rajaram does a very good job as the slimy and cowardly M. Bonacieux, stressing both the character’s age and his idiocy in his performance. His wife, Madame Bonacieux, is played by Bethany Jillard in one of the only performances that is noticeably different from the book. In the book, the character is much more aloof and mysterious to the point where, for a certain time, a reader may be inclined to suspect her of being a villain. Meanwhile, here she is much more energetic and sweet. This can particularly be seen in her interactions with d’Artagnon. In the book, she is much more cautious and distant while here she is quickly swept off her feet. However this does not necessarily hurt the character since it does make her very endearing and the slower courtship of the book would unnecessarily slow down the play’s breakneck speed. Nehassaiu deGannes portrays Ann of Austria with the necessary elegance and dignity which makes the few moments when she breaks from this dignity all the more dramatic. Keith Dinicol is absolutely hilarious in the role of the King, particularly when he tries to count the Queen’s diamonds at the ball. The Comte de Rochfort is played very well by Michael Blake who keeps a constant subtle menace in all his scenes. However, the most impressive villainous performance is undoubtedly Deborah Hay as the sociopathic femme fatale, Milady de Winter. She does a great job selling both the character’s seductive qualities and her totally evil true nature.
However, the one performance I found myself a bit disappointed by was Stevan Sutcliffe as Cardinal Richelieu. He actually does look the part and he doesn’t seem to be a bad actor, so it may be more the script or even the director’s fault, but he just doesn’t have the requisite power in the role. In the first scene he appears in, he is losing his temper at his newest losses and many of the scenes following show him acting very wheedling towards the King. This makes him appear weak and while the Cardinal is a character who can appear vindictive, immoral and evil, he is never supposed to be weak.
The play does a good job differentiating the characters by their fighting style. Porthos constantly cheats for example by throwing his opponent’s cape over his head, while Aramis has a very precise fighting style and Athos seems most alive while dueling. These small details really enhance the play. Other highlights include d’Artagnon’s duel with the Count de Rochefort and the dramatic final confrontation with Milady de Winter, which is a dark and satisfying scene that Shakespeare would be proud of. The Three Musketeers is recommended.

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