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THEATRE: 20 MAY 2015

By TONI CARROLL

The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas; adapted by Ken Ludwig | Directed by Mark Banks

Genesian Theatre (www.genesiantheatre.com.au) | Genesian Theatre, Sydney CBD | Until 27 June

Walking into the Genesian Theatre on opening night is like a warm embrace from your Auntie Zelda. You know, the one who wears purple and slips you lollies when your parents aren’t looking.

As patrons walk through the door, their faces light up with recognition of those in the foyer.

“Oh, you must be David’s mum and dad!”

“Hellooo! Why aren’t YOU in this one?!”

“I didn’t know you were back already – we missed you.”

I feel a bit like an intruder, but a welcome one. Particularly friendly is the dapper gentleman offering opening night nibblies, who comments that my guest and I look “appropriately theatrical”. (Note: My guest has channelled the musketeer spirit by donning floppy black hat, loose half-mast pony tail, puffy shirt and baggy trousers.)

We file into the converted theatre – home to emerging acting talent for 60 years – ripe with expectations of a rollicking trip to Alexandre Dumas’ 17th-century France. We aren’t disappointed. Energy leaps from the stage, particularly from the exuberant Joanne Coleman. Her character, Sabine, has been added to Dumas’ story by script adaptor Ken Ludwig, perhaps to appease modern audiences trained to expect a “kick-ass” girl in action adventures. Tim Van Zuylen also throws himself into a larger-than-life characterisation of King Louis XIII.

The energy is at times subdued by some underplaying of others in the ensemble, and we’re all let down by the script in the second act as it becomes a tad drawn out. Or perhaps that’s just me feeling like I’m sitting on a budget long-haul flight in economy. The theatre, a converted heritage church, is beautifully atmospheric but unfortunately the seats are cramped and a little stifling.

The fight scenes, although expertly staged by Kyle Rowling (fight director) and Debbie Smith (choreographer), are also a little lacklustre and tentative. Likely due to actor nerves that they could have someone’s eye out, with so many foils waving about! I’m sure that their confidence will grow as the season continues.

John Willis-Richards’ Cardinal Richelieu perks me up, though, each time he takes to the stage. His mix of mild foppishness and tightly woven intimidation makes for an exciting and disconcerting characterisation.

A few minor irritations have my guest and I glancing at each other with raised eyebrows. One actor’s strong Australian accent drags us out of time and place, and some character names are regularly mispronounced. But overall The Three Musketeers is a fun night out and great entertainment.

NOTE: To read Toni Carroll's blog, visit tonicarroll.wordpress.com