Mistrust everything – even your own shadow.
I’m going to start by being completely honest: this has been the most challenging project I have ever worked on to date.
It has been a challenge for a number of reasons, starting with the adaptation itself. I was very keen to work on The Three Musketeers. It has been floating around as a possibility in my mind for some time now. I love the swashbuckling silliness of the BBC series and that was what drew me to the novel initially – that and generally being something of a francophile! But when I read the book itself, I was surprised to find a tale that was much darker and much more sinister than I had ever seen presented in TV, film or stage renditions of the novel.
Like Great Expectations, I felt like most adaptations had gone for the easy option and as a result not told the true story that was at the heart of the author’s original narrative. Just as Great Expectations is often comic as much as it is dark and gloomy, Musketeers is often morally and politically questioning as much as it is cavalier wit. So I was determined to bring out the true atmosphere and colour of the story in this adaptation.
The Three Musketeers is not a straightforward story to adapt. The story has many twists and turns, it has dramatic changes in tone – frankly, you can tell it was written by a team of writers rather than Dumas alone. The plot is, however, very intricately interwoven so it is difficult to trim without losing crucial pieces of information. There is also no clear narrative voice or perspective to the story. So these were some of the challenges in adapting the novel for the stage – not to mention the fact that it was written in French!
Once I settled on the idea of the Musketeers (Athos, Porthos and Aramis) telling the story of d’Artagnan, the adaptation started to fall into place. The three characters would relate the story to their audience and become every other part that the narrative required in the process. The result is a piece that has a playful, improvised feel, bringing out the carefree wit of the musketeers whilst also allowing the freedom to descend into a world of revenge and tragedy where necessary.
I have always been of the opinion that if a project doesn’t scare you slightly then you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. This project certainly scares me but it also fills me with a huge amount of excitement.
The response to the script so far has been incredibly positive. I think it is a piece that marks a much greater understanding of the Cyphers style. This will be the most ‘Cyphers’ a Cyphers play has ever been! We are embracing the storytelling, the poor theatre style and the fast-change multi-roling more than we have ever done before. There will be choral singing and a relaxed, reactive relationship with the audience. All these elements make me hugely excited for the coming weeks and months as this production develops and grows.
The two pre-rehearsal workshops we have had so far have given us every reason to be excited. Caitlin Abbott’s designs look fantastic and the cast are gelling nicely. We’ve already been taught two versions of a French song by John Henderson and spent time sharing research into both the period Dumas was writing and the seventeenth century setting of the play. We’ve also been sharing stories with each other to keep reminding ourselves that if we do nothing else whilst on stage we must tell our audience a really good story!
Marcus J. Bazley – Adaptor of The Three Musketeers
The Three Musketeers performances:
LONDON | The Proud Archivist | 21-24 April (Previews)
READING | Reading School | 29 April
Tickets can be purchased via: http://www.cyphers.org.uk/whats_on
More touring dates to be announced shortly.