Review: The Three Musketeers … attempted by Foolhardy

Heavily promoted on the strength of Robert Lindsay’s involvement in the cast, this audio-animated adaptation of The Three Musketeers owes more to parody and pastiche than any serious attempt to translate the story into digital form.

There are occasional live action pieces, but these are staged for humorous effect (cast members wander off, mobile phones ring, the star never stops complaining). Sydney Stevenson has written the ‘Musketeers Goes Wrong’, effectively. And it is fun.

Lindsay is the narrator of the piece, which is produced and adapted by one “David Du Lesley” for Foolhardy Productions (who have “attempted” the show).

Rehearsal shot of Robert Lindsay in The Three Musketeers

The others lending their voices to this classic tale include David Bedella (in the small role of the King) and all find the right balance of ennui and professional commitment. This is an adaptation that rises or falls on the quality of the voice artists, and it definitely delivers.

I found the animation style by Barbara Owczarek initially a little odd – no character is drawn or seen except a horse, yet the backgrounds and effects are incredibly detailed, with lots of in-jokes and “easter eggs”. Movement is suggested by a quick shake of the scene or a moving cloud representing a fight.

We have to use our imaginations to fill in the gaps where the Musketeers, Milady (Dianne Pilkington), and the rest of the cast of characters should be. After a while, it does begin to work, and the style has a definite charm and flair, clearly influenced by the cut-out animation tradition.

Rehearsal photograph of Dianne Pilkington in The Three Musketeers

Antony Eden’s Du Lesley (all the cast except Lindsay are given fake acting names as well as characters) is appealingly awful as the hapless director – in real-life the piece is under the direction of Joseph O’Malley. He picks the plum role of D’Artagnan for himself, and the new, keen, if blundering, musketeer gets some plum pieces.

I was reminded very clearly of Richard Lester’s Musketeers films of the 1970s which took the Dumas book and made it into a riotous, if fairly faithful adaptation. Stevenson’s version is farcical fun all the way, and the actors run with it.

The Three Musketeers … attempted by Foolhardy is available until 27 June 2021 – book your ticket here (£15).

Image credit: Mark Senior