The Three Musketeers, by Iris Theatre, at St Paul’s Church (review)

The Iris Theatre is the in-house theatre company of St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, otherwise known as the Actors’ Church. It has been putting on performances there since 2007 and has become known for its outdoor theatre which is rooted in the interactive and immersive. It has won an Off West End award for Best Production for Young People Aged 8+ for its 2016 production of Treasure Island, and has been nominated for another Offie for its 2017 production of Hansel & Gretel and the Witch Baba Yaga.

Photograph: Nick Rutter

The Three Musketeers takes the basic plot from Alexandre Dumas’s novel written in 1844 (and set in 1625-1628), but Daniel Winder’s adaptation adds an extra element with a female D’Artagnan, dressing up to run away from home and befriend Porthos (Elliot Liburd), Athos (Matt Stubbs) and Aramis (Albert de Jongh), in a bid to become a King’s Musketeer like them. Jenny Horsthuis as D’Artagnan is determined and bold and was my son’s favourite character. The titular Musketeers are full of energy and verve, and the cast overall is multiskilled and plays various roles, sometimes almost simultaneously, and with the right amount of playfulness and seriousness.

The real standout performance in my view is Ailsa Joy as Milady de Winter, one quarter narrator, three quarters villain, whose intensity keeps us rapt throughout. Through her we witness the story of the Musketeers’ adventures through France and England as it combines comedy, daring, exciting fight scenes and a few madcap visits to taverns. Milady will stop at nothing to get what she wants, and is the perfect antidote to D’Artagnan when it comes to displaying female strength and tenacity. How wonderful to have two female role models to choose from, even though one of them does appeal more to one’s darker side!

We were also impressed by de Jongh, who did not let a broken ankle get in the way of his (three) roles. The injury is disguised so well that you hardly realise it is there, which gives new meaning to this Musketeer’s courage.

On the sunny August evening when we saw the show, the audience was ready to enjoy and get involved – sometimes even a bit too much, by the look of a few irritated gestures made by one of the actors when some of the littlest children got too excited. It’s a promenade performance, so we were led between different areas in the gardens of St Paul’s, and also inside the church for a couple of key scenes, and at times this did not flow that smoothly and added a bit to the running time. Again I caught some exasperation in the voice of one of the actors as the audience was not promenading fast enough.  However, I’m sure this was a one-off; in general the pace is fast, there is a lot of comedy and some great drama, especially in the final scenes, and you really do keep a smile on your face throughout. If it helps, my kids (11 and 13 and notoriously hard to please) summed up the whole event with one word: ‘awesome’.

hattydaze rating: ***/*****

We saw The Three Musketeers by Iris Theatre courtesy of press tickets. The show plays in the grounds of St Paul’s Church until 2nd September 2018. For more information and to book tickets, including to their next show Arabian Nights at Hoxton Hall, visit the website.

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