What can you add to The Three Musketeers, a successful action-packed novel written centuries ago and developed through movies, comics and series? Can it even work as a play? Turns out it can. Hereâ€™s my review of theÂ Iris Theatre‘s rendition of Alexandre Dumasâ€™ novel.
You could tell from the word go that the Iris Theatreâ€™s version of The Three Musketeers was set to deliver something special.
Directed by Paul-Ryan Carberry, the show started with a battle between the Musketeers and the English guards could have been a movie scene, with slow-motion stand-offs that froze the scene to let the narrator, Milady De Winter, tell the story as a flashback.
The initial twist on the original tale set the scene, too. In the Iris Theatreâ€™s version of the Musketeers, Dâ€™Artagnan is a woman posing as a man and winning a place among the musketeers in disguise thanks to her courage.
Although The Three Musketeers already saw Milady De Winterâ€™s evil scheme as a key to the plot, in the Iris Theatreâ€™s version women take centre stage more than they could in Dumasâ€™ times.Â All in all, the Irisâ€™ The Three Musketeers is an inclusive play where women cease to be lovers or accessories and they become leading characters.
The Cast and the Adaptation
The Irisâ€™ cast for The Three Musketeer is made of troopers who powered through despite the rain and various setbacks.
Jenny Horsthuis is fantastic as Dâ€™Artagnan, with the help of androgynous costumes having us wonder about her gender until the big reveal.
Stephan Boyce, who played TrÃ©ville, the moral leader of the Musketeers, managed a variety of almost miraculous changes of clothes and characters, deserving nothing but praise.
Albert De Jongh (Aramis) powered through the performance on crutches due to an injury, but went through fights and costume changes nonetheless.Â Ailsa Joy was brilliant as Milady De Winter, a powerful narrator taking the character to the next level.
The play itself is written for our day and age, with wittier dialogues and relatable jokes, so much that the teenagers from a school that saw the play on the same night as I did could enjoy them. The cast even managed to involve the children in the audience, getting them to act as the Cardinalâ€™s guards amongst other things.
The set, too, was nothing short of dreamy. Stepping into The Iris Theatre – on the unassuming back of the Actorsâ€™ Church in Covent Gardenâ€™s busy piazza – felt like stepping into a fairy tale. Made of four different stages, including a gorgeous palace where the King’s guests played croquet, the actors took us back to the glamour of 17th Century Paris.
The Iris Theatre
Founded by Daniel Winder in 2007, Iris Theatre is an award-winning theatre company based at the Actorsâ€™ Church (St Paulâ€™s) in Covent Garden, now in its eleventh year.
For the past eight years, Irisâ€™ put on a summer season featuring a Shakespeare and a family show in the outdoor promenade at St Paulâ€™s, including the Offie award-winning Treasure Island and last yearâ€™s hits Macbeth and Hansel & Gretel.
Growing year on year, Iris gained full charity status in October 2009, with a mission to support the development of the next generation of professional theatre practitioners and to produce a fresh and vibrant repertoire of varied work resulting in affordable and accessible theatre.
Founder Daniel Winder has a background in both theoretical physics and acting. Since graduating from Drama Centre in 2006, he has dedicated much of his time to building the company. He has worked professionally in Austria both for the Shakespeare in Styria festival and the Vienna English Theatre as a director and writer, as well as for The Castle Wellingborough on their 2012 Christmas show Sleeping Beauty. His 2016 production of Treasure Island was awarded Best Production for Young People (8+) at the Off West End awards.
The Three Musketeers is one of my favourite novels of all time and I must say I was almost scared to see it played on a theatre in Central London when so many recent adaptations of it flopped.
Yet, The Iris Theatreâ€™s version could teach them all a lesson, with a skillful cast, a fantastic backdrop and an adaptation that is perfect for the time we live in. Get yourself a ticket when you can – and when you know it isnâ€™t raining. Itâ€™s on until the 2nd of September!
The Three Musketeers
- Iris Theatre – St Paulâ€™s Church, Bedford Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9ED
- Tickets: Â£20 adults; Â£14 children
Pictures: Nick Rutter