Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Three Musketeers at the Lahti City Theatre

Last night, my wife and I attended the last performance of The Three Musketeers (Kolme Muskettisoturia) at the Lahti City Theatre (Lahden kaupunginteatteri). I'm not going to review it, as there is no sense in doing so for a play that no one can see anymore, but I wanted to bring up some of the highlights and some of what-one-might-call the low points in this interpretation of Alexandre Dumas' classic story. Let's begin with the trailer:

The play was adapted and directed by Mikko Lehto, the fight choreographer was Oula Kitti. First things first, the fight choreography was very good for a theatrical play, although the focus was a bit more on the side of fun acrobatics than nail-biting action. The lead actors played their roles generally very well, although I regretted the lack of scenes where they might have shown their emotional involvement to the roles. Even Athos' telling of his and Milady's tragic story is delivered in a tavern scene where all the other stuff happening on the stage distracts from the actor's performance. But, as I said, the focus in this play was on a fun retelling of the story.

The play started rather shakily, not with the drawing of the curtains, but with the actors stretching their muscles, practicing their acrobatics and walking around the stage until one of them stepped to the front and started delivering the introduction that soon had all the actors join in to tell the backstory. I cringed when d'Artagnan was given his horse, as it was played by a pommel horse (gym stuff) that was dragged around the floor by a couple of stage hands. But it seemed to make the audience laugh, so I switched gears in my head and gave a try to enjoy it all.

The first half of the play was spent retelling the basics: d'Artagnan meets Comte de Rochefort and Milady in Meung, bumps into the Three Musketeers in Paris and agrees to duel them all and, of course, fights the Cardinal's Guards. It was a surprisingly slow first half, including scenes that have usually been skipped in other adaptations of the novel (e.g. Athos' imprisonment). By the intermission, my wife and I were both wondering how they were going to squeeze all the rest of the story in the remaining hour and realised that they will probably only focus on the necklace plot - and that guess turned out to be the truth.

The second half introduced the necklace, the Queen's affair with the Duke of Buckingham, the handover of the necklace, Richelieu's plot to shame the queen by asking the king to arrange a party where the queen was supposed to wear it, d'Artagnan sailing to England to fetch the necklace and returning in time for the party and the final confrontation between the heroes and the villains. All this while also introducing Constance and d'Artagnan's love affair, the king's suspicions of his wife's fidelity etc. etc. In short, a lot of story to fit into a single hour.

There were only a couple of points that counted as low points for the play. First is about the three comic relief characters played by the same actress. The attempts to copycat the Monty Python Ministry of Funny Walks and combine that with silly voices and facial contortions felt very distracting in the otherwise decent play. It seemed that they were aimed to entertain the younger audience, but the two 5-year-olds sitting on my left (children of one of the cast members) didn't seem that taken by them either. The second weakness comes in the form of the costumes that were... all over the place. Rochefort wore a late 16th century ruff around his neck, the Duke of Buckingham shared his wardrobe with the Mad Hatter, the Queen wore studded belts with her dress and the musketeers wore black leather outfits and hats. Some of the supporting characters even wore top hats, if you can believe it. These were all in direct conflict with the main cast's swords that were surprisingly era-accurate (though not completely so).

Quite surprisingly, even though the latter half of the play seemed to rush through the story, the overall feeling we were left with was positive. The play, even with its weaknesses, entertained us and made us smile and talk about it all the way back home. We especially enjoyed the tavern song that the musketeers sang which was lifted straight from the theme music of Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds and the humour between the musketeers was very well done, overall.

I'll end with a nice clip from the rehearsals: