From left: Jonathan Goad, Luke Humphrey, Graham Abbey, Mike Shara. Photography by Don Dixon.
The Stratford Festival has mounted The Three Musketeers again in a full-blooded production at the Festival Theatre. Peter Raby’s adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel was first staged in 1968 and revived in 1988 and 2000.
I had not seen any of the previous productions and indeed, I thought it had been produced many more times. It is a swashbuckling, fast-paced adventure story that has been made into numerous films during the last one hundred years or so as well as television series, musicals and games.
The Musketeers represent youth in action. They are expert swordsman, brave, impetuous and rebellious, who fight against the enemies of their king and for the honour of their queen.
There are more than forty characters in Raby’s adaptation of the novel plus extras. If the Festival Theatre had a smaller stage there would be traffic congestions at times. There is not much of that happening, of course, because Director Miles Potter keeps everyone moving at a brisk speed. This is an adventure drama and there is no time for standing around. Little provocation is needed for the swords to be unsheathed and a display of swordsmanship to ensue. The programme names the Fight Director (John Stead) just below the Director, a spot usually reserved for the Set Designer, in this case Douglas Paraschuk.
There is also an Associate Fight Director (Kevin Bennett), two Assistant Fight Directors (Anita Nittoly and Kostas Tourlentes), a Fight Captain (Wayne Best) and a Movement Captain (Bethany Jillard).
The fighting and loving is done by the Musketeers D’Artagnan (Luke Humphrey), Porthos (Jonathan Goad), Aramis (Mike Shara) and Athos (Graham Abbey). D’Artagnan is technically not a musketeer but there is no reason to lose any sleep over that.
They have serious enemies such as Cardinal Richelieu (Steven Sutcliffe) and his nasty agents The Comte de Rochefort (Michael Blake), Milady de Winter (Deborah Hay) and others. I am loth to give the plot away but let me reveal only that the musketeers are successful and all is well in the world until they return for a number of sequels.
I cannot pretend that I particularly enjoyed the production and in fact started wondering why the play was put on at all. The very large number of actors and other resources that the production requires seem to indicate a substantial use of funds that may not tally favourably in a cost/benefit analysis.
Someone who knows about programming reminded me that The Three Musketeers is intended as the family show. If you want to introduce a 10-year old to Stratford, none of the season’s dozen productions is more suitable or likely to please than The Three Musketeers.
Viewed from that perspective, The Three Musketeers makes sense. Therefore, throw your youngsters in the back seat, take their video games and mobiles out of their hands and take them to Stratford. You will have a good time with them and lend a hand in saving civilization as we know it.
The Three Musketeers by Peter Raby, adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, opened on June 1 and will run in repertory until October 19, 2013 at the Festival Theatre, Stratford, Ontario.www.stratfordfestival.ca