From the award-winning Le Navet Bete comes a comedy adventure that will have you rolling with laughter from here to the French countryside! We sit down with the Exeter-based comedy troupe to find out more about The Three Musketeers.
What can you tell us about your brand-new show The Three Musketeers: A Comedy Adventure?
So we’ve taken Alexandre Dumas’ classic story – that’s 700 pages of epic adventure – and condensed it into just two hours of high energy, fun and hugely entertaining theatre for absolutely anyone and everyone to enjoy. It’s a story that’s been told a thousand times but we’ve put a fun twist on it, remembering childhood days of playing dress-up in dens and treehouses. It’s a great way to let the story play out and audiences have been loving it.
What made you choose this classic tale?
Firstly, we knew it offered a wealth of material that we could put our own comic spin on. The characters and the story offer us huge potential as performers to create a loud and colourful world brimming with fun, chaos, adventure and of course lots of laughs! There’s the comradery between the musketeers (which you could say reflects us as an ensemble), the power struggle between the villainous characters of Milady and Cardinal Richelieu, the love triangles (more like hexagons) that D’Artagnan finds himself wound up in, as well as epic chases across Europe, diamond theft and plenty of scheming and murder. Underpin this with classic British/French rivalry and there’s so much scope for comedy.
What can we expect in terms of the number of characters each of you play/costume changes?
There are four actors playing over forty characters in this show and over 100 costume changes in just 90 minutes, it’s ridiculous! We really love to set a challenge for ourselves and it’s extremely satisfying for an audience to see it happen. This time we’re costume changing on stage in full view of the audience which is something we’ve never done before. It’s a huge logistical task but our incredible stage manager Abi Cowan is always on hand to help make it happen… and happen on time!
Can you tell us a bit about the writing process?
The idea for this show has been two years in the making and an unbelievable amount of work from countless people has gone into it. We started out getting the ‘spine’ of a plot together, along with the director / writer John Nicholson. Then this gets broken down into ‘scenes’. We then divide up characters between the four of us and then improvise each scene. John is always writing down bits from these improvisations and it grows and grows each time. He then went away and came back with a first draft script – I think we’re on draft 20 now! It’s an ever-changing beast!
What makes you laugh and who has influenced your style of comedy over the years?
Luckily, we all share a similar taste in comedy and I think that reflects in the work that we make. We all love the old school British comedies like The Young Ones, Fawlty Towers, Bottom, Blackadder, Father Ted, French and Saunders. They’re all great physical comedians and it’s very silly comedy. We take influence from all sorts in life and just sitting and observing can sometimes give you great ideas for new characters!
How would you describe Le Navet Bete to anyone who hasn’t seen you before?
We make shows for literally anyone to come and enjoy from ages 4 to 104. It’s pure escapism, it’s fun, it’s joyous, always a twinkle in our eyes and a strong connection with the audience. Audiences are why we do this job and we want to make them feel comfortable right from the start. Apparently one ‘fan’ turned to the person next to him who had never seen us before and, as the house lights went down at the start of a show, he said “Brace yourself!” It’s two hours of sheer madness and engaging storytelling.
You’ve travelled all over the world with your shows – what are some of the more unusual places you have performed?
Our work has taken us to some truly incredible places and it’s definitely a perk of the job. As for some of the more unusual places; we’ve performed in olive groves in Spain, the gardens of British and French Embassies, the top floor of the tallest building in Latin America, the ruins of an old colonial church in Mexico, the top of the Rock of Gibraltar… and, less glamorously, a cow shed in Devon!
What’s next for Le Navet Bete?
Our madcap version of Dracula (called Dracula: The Bloody Truth) was licensed worldwide in 2018. Since then it’s been performed all over the world with runs in Canada, the USA, and most recently as far away as New Zealand! We’re also continuing to tour the show in the UK with dates up and down the country this Autumn, as well as starting work on Robin Hood which is coming to Exeter Northcott this Christmas.
The Three Musketeers comes Taunton Brewhouse 15 & 16 July. Book tickets here, or see the swashbucklingly brilliant show with three companions for just £40! Just use the code ALLFORONE when booking over the phone, in person or online.