??? July 1996
This production for Maskers follows in the tradition of Cyrano de Bergerac, (1986) and The Rover, (1988) with colour, action, pizazz, the odd surprise and also the irreverent humour and ensemble playing of The Canterbury Tales (1992) with actors changing hats almost in front of your eyes and mingling with the audience before the show and during the interval.
Set in France in 1625 during the reign of Louis XIV, the story tells of D’Artagnan, a poor but noble Gascon, who journeys to Paris to join the King’s Musketeers. Falling in with three of this chivalrous band, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, they set out to foil the evil plans of Cardinal Richelieu and Milady de Winter. The result is an evening of intrigue with prayers from the convent, screams from the Bastille dungeons, carousing from the Inn, swordfights almost everywhere and a missing diamond necklace somewhere in England.
The fashion of the day was for plumes and lace collars, sashes and silks, jewels and velvets... and that was just the men! Whilst the English court was still stifled by starched ruffs and corseted gowns, the French court was all diaphanous skirts, softly flowing tresses, floppy boots, frothing lace and shining rosettes of ribbon. The house and grounds of Mottisfont Abbey is the perfect backdrop for all the finery, skulduggery and derring do. We are privileged to be able to perform at this special open air venue and once again we will be following the weather forecast and hoping for some balmy summer evenings for picnics and performance.We can probably guarantee barmy evenings of another nature! We are grateful for the good humoured and obliging cooperation of Barry Futter and other National Trust Staff who have enabled us to rehearse as well as perform here. We’ve had a ball, we hope you will.
The Three Musketeers - Fact or Fiction?
Everyone has heard of The Three Musketeers and many are familiar with the story, either through the novel by Dumas or one of the several film versions. This highly entertaining story is in fact based upon real characters although a good deal of licence has been taken in the telling.
Dumas derived elements of his story from earlier writers, particularly a seventeenth century pamphleteer called Courtilz.
So, what is fact and what is fiction? Musketeers were mainly from Gascony, were fiercely loyal to Louis and Anne and did defy duelling laws when they clashed with Cardinal Richelieu’s guards. The central character, D’Artagnan, was certainly real and was born in Gascony in 1623. He joined the Musketeers, became a captain in 1667 and was killed attempting to capture Maestricht in Holland in 1673. In The Three Musketeers, Dumas places his birth in 1607. Athos, Porthos and Aramis are also known to have existed as Gascon noblemen. They were Armond Athos d’Auterielle, Henri d’Aramitz and Isaac de Portau and their captain was the Comte de Treville but their association with d’Artagnan is fictitious.
In the episodes of the story involving the court there is both fact and fiction. Louis, Anne, Buckingham, and Richelieu were very real. The story linking them with d’Artagnan and his companions is not. There was a brief though almost certainly chaste relationship between Anne and Buckingham. Like d’Artagnan, Buckingham also came to an untimely end at the hands of an assassin in Portsmouth in 1627. The real Rochefort was a good soldier and respected courtier who eventually achieved high office. The rest of the characters come from the pen of Dumas or his sources.
The curious medication offered by d’Artagnan senior to his son may have some historical validity. When Cardinal Richelieu was on his deathbed, and all medical hope had been abandoned, his doctors resorted in desperation to an old peasant treatment. He was given a potion of horse dung soaked in white wine. It didn’t work.
|D’Artagnan||John Carrington Jr.|
|Constance Bonacieux||Jenny Bartel|
|Cardinal Richlieu||Ian Morley|
|King Louis XIII||Peter Taylor|
|Queen Anne||Joanne Young|
|Donna Estefana, Mother Superior||Angela Mackie|
|Clothilde, Nun, Servant||Emma Carrington|
|Monsieur de Treville,Priest||Keith della Gana|
|Milady de Winter||Catherine Blandford|
|The Duke of Buckingham, 1st Musketeer||Alec Walters|
|Planchet/De Treville’s servant, Tailor||John Carrington Snr.|
|Jussac, 1st Gaoler||Liam Meggison|
|2nd Musketeer, 2nd Gaoler etc||Andy Roberts|
|3rd Musketeer, Lackey etc||Paul Baker|
|Smallest servant||Rosie Bartel|
Musketeers, Cardinal’s Guards, Countryfolk, Servants, Courtiers, Nuns, Peasants, Spies, Bag guests, played by members of the company led by Jan Ward and Pauline Howson. (Without whom the play goes not forward!)
Ball guests/torch bearers also played by Maskers and friends including Katy Ward, Susannah Lawther, Angela, Amy, Tom and Hannah Stansbridge, Kathryn Morley, Maria Anne Bennett, Helen White, Ros & Pete Liddiard, Pam & Geoff Cook, Steve Clarke, Sheana Carrington, Mollie Manns, Sonia Morris, Fran Fleming, Claire Minns, Tom Slaven, Steve Price, Harry Tuffill, Peter Pitcher, Paul Young, Joanna and Rosalind Mackie, Sophie Picton-Jones, Lizzie Boston, Irene, Douglas and Cameron Shiel.
|For the Maskers:|
|Designers||Fran Morley with Roger Lockett|
|Lighting||Clive Weeks and Tony Lawther|
|Special effects||Tony Lawther|
|Stage Manager||Angie Barks|
|Wardrobe||Chris Baker with Kathryn Morley, Sarah Humphries, Sophie Carrington|
|Properties||Ella Lockett and Irene Shiel assisted by Simon Wills and Christel Mauffett|
|Sound||Lawrie Gee and Emmanuel Vattier|
|Furniture dressed by||Jan and Katy Ward, Kathryn Morley, Helen White|
|Scenic Artist||Edwin Beecroft|
|Furniture painted by||Ken Spencer|
|ASM||Julia Campone and Shauna Lockett|
|Lighting assistants||Nathan Weeks & Gemma Smith|
|Fight Director||Paul Benzing|
|Music arranged by||Chris Nelson|
|Music performed by||Chris Nelson, Belinda Drew and Tony Lawther|
|Royal Fanfares||Susie Williams & Jeremy Moss|
|Voice Coach||Angela Mackie|
|Accent coach||Frank Zaragosa|
|Costume Change Coordinator||Kathryn Morley|
|Choreography||Brenda Bennett and John Burke|
|Fireworks||Mike Jones and Tony Lawther|
|Marketing||Jan Ward through the Turner Sims Concert Hall|
|Front of House Managers||Harry Tuffill & Stephanie Bartel|
Fran Morley leads a mixture of old and new faces in The Three Musketeers this year, having previously directed several Maskers productions including Flarepath and Noises Off at the Plaza and The Canterbury Tales here at Mottisfont in 1992. Fran has also directed Southampton Operatic Society at The Guildhall and the Mayflower Theatre and has assisted Patrick Sandford at the Nuffield, working with the children in two Christmas shows, was Associate Director for Maid Marion’s Mischief and Assistant Director last year for Dark Glory. She also treads the boards when she can with A Motley Crew, and has played one role for Maskers as Sheila in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.
Making his acting debut in Oh What a Lovely War at the tender age of 11, John Carrington jnr. (D’Artagnan) has been an active member of Maskers ever since, starting Maskers Youth in 1987. You may have seen him taking leading roles in The Rover, The Canterbury Tales, A Midsummer Nights Dream and Habeas Corpus or in one of the many other character parts he has played. Martin Humphrey (Athos), having previously done some dramatic and operatic work with other groups, recently joined Maskers for The Man who Came to Dinner at the Theatre Royal. A familiar face here at Mottisfont is Brian Stansbridge (Aramis), one of our longest serving members, who has appeared in no less than eight of our shows here as well as numerous other Maskers productions. Last year’s audiences will no doubt remember Brian’s ‘Bottom’ from A Midsummer Night’s Dream while Malcolm Brown’s previous Mottisfont performances in The Beaux Stratagem and The Rover look set to be outstripped by his streak of genius as Porthos in The Three Musketeers! John Carrington (Planchet), a founder member of the Maskers Theatre Group, was in our first ever production, Much Ado About Nothing, appearing in it again at Mottisfont in our 25th Anniversary year. He has taken parts in many a production including A Man for all Seasons, the first Maskers play at Mottisfont, and has also directed for Maskers and Maskers Youth. In contrast, Keith Della Gana (Monsieur de Treville) makes his first appearance with Maskers, although he has previously taken part in drama festivals with other groups.
Involved in Maskers since 1987, audiences may have seen Ian Morley (Cardinal Richelieu) here in last year’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream or before that in The Recruiting Officer. Some of Ian’s other performances include Flarepath, Seasons Greetings, Harlequinade and Noises Off. Robbie Carnegie (Rochefort) loves acting at Mottisfont so much that he travels up daily from Chichester in order to do so. This will be his seventh consecutive production. In contrast, Liam Meggison (Jussac) appears in his first Maskers show this summer. As a Mottisfont ‘virgin’ we have promised to be gentle with him. Having spent a decade in Maskers, Catherine Blandford (Milady de Winter) has been in The Rover and The Recruiting Officer at Mottisfont as well as other Maskers productions. Given the opportunity, Catherine enjoys cross dressing, but I don’t think that will be possible this year (spot the bump..)!.
Joining Maskers last year for A Woman in Mind and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Peter Taylor (King Louis XIV) has also taken part in various melodramas and revues and awaits the opportunity to demonstrate to audiences his amazingly flawless Canadian accent! A Midsummer Night’s Dream was also the first major Maskers production for Joanne Young (Queen Anne), who has ten years’ previous acting experience with other groups, and was Alec Walters’ second time out at Mottisfont, following The Importance of Being Earnest in 1994. Alec, who plays the Duke of Buckingham, says he is on the look out for young maidens to replace the bunch of ramshackle excuses for servants that Buckingham currently has to put up with! Mottisfont productions that Jenny Bartel (Constance) has been involved in include The Recruiting Officer and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Jenny has also acted with A Motley Crew and is hoping to study for a degree in Drama next year. The Canterbury Tales was Angela Mackie’s last time at Mottisfont, but being a member for ten years she has taken part in many other Maskers plays. Angela (Donna Estefana) is also involved with various operatic societies and has been our ‘Company Voice Coach’ for this show.
‘The Three Musketeers>’ marks Albie Minns’ 10th Anniversary with Maskers. Albie plays Monsieur Bonacieux and has been involved in seven of the last ten Mottisfont productions (as well as other Maskers shows) so seasoned visitors will know his face well. Christine Baker (Innkeeper) has been an active member of Maskers for over 20 years.You may have seen her out here in The Canterbury Tales and Joseph Andrews or remember her serving the odd glass of wine over in the Catering Tent last year! Having been involved with the Maskers all her life (sad but true) Emma Carrington (Clothilde) is a ‘Maskers baby’ and has taken part in The Rover, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Joseph Andrews as well as some productions (but more parties) with MaskersYouth.
Amongst our more recent recruits is Paul Baker (who has stood in for Aramis during many rehearsals when Brian was called to work away.) Andy Roberts has previously assisted with sound but now audiences can see him for the first time on stage. The Three Musketeers will also be Pauline Howson’s first Mottisfont show but she is certainly no stranger to the stage having acted in countless amateur productions, including a touring company, and organising children’s drama workshops. Pauline loves open air shows and her first venture at Mottisfont sees her dividing herself into many parts! Jan Ward has been involved in most of our productions over the last ten years, either on or off stage, and as a consequence Katy Ward has been familiar with Maskers since the age of two. Jan’s professional experience as Marketing Manager of the Turner Sims Concert Hall has also often been put to good use.
Please note all of the above are open to offers to appear in The Bill.
As usual a Mottisfont show calls for much technical back-up. Crewing The Three Musketeers are a mixture of old-hands and fresh-blood. Stage Manager is Angie Barks whose first show with the Maskers was also the first Maskers Mottisfont show A Man for all Seasons. Angie is assisted by Julia Campone who is an experienced gopher for several Mottisfont crews. Julia can turn her hand to anything and will be seen, on some evenings, on the lighting desk.
Two lighting designers experienced in both open-air and theatre design have joined forces on The Three Musketeers: Clive Weeks & Tony Lawther. Clive has lit the majority of the open-air productions since the Maskers first started full open-air shows at Avington House. Clive was responsible for the lighting design of last year’s open-air production A Midsummer Night’s Dream and his most recent production for the Maskers was Cider with Rosie at the Nuffield, Southampton. Tony took the part of Sir Richard Rich in A Man for all Seasons and has contributed technically to a number of spectacular Mottisfont productions such as Cyrano de Bergerac and The Rover. He also lit Fran’s last production at Mottisfont, Canterbury Tales. Tony’s ambition is to get his name mentioned in the programme the most number of times (check it out in this one).
Some relative newcomers on the lighting team are: Helen White - last year’s stage manager, now turning her hand to lighting; Gemma Smith - lighting operator from last year gaining experience before moving on to progress her studies in theatre; and Nathan Weeks - who, previously involved with rigging lights for various Mottisfont shows, had his first Mottisfont as lighting operator last year.
Sound is provided by Lawrie Gee, who has done more Maskers shows than he cares to remember. He has been far and wide in his search for appropriate music and sounds as usual. Lawrie’s advisor on the French connection and his assistant sound operator is Emmanuel Vattier. Emmanuel first appeared with the Maskers on stage in Cider with Rosie.
The Wardrobe mistress is also mine host of Le Cochon qui Pete. Christine Baker has dressed many a production. This show demands multiple costume changes with the possibility of recycling some of them for crowd use in the finale. I have not asked her what her final total is, I shouldn’t think she knows, but it is multi several!
Props are taken care of by the redoubtable Ella Lockett, half of a team which has worked with Fran on several productions. Ask Ella to find the most outrageous item and she will find it somewhere. She particularly remembers Noises Off - all those sardines! and Canterbury Tales She will be assisted by Irene Shiel and Christel Mauffet.
Mottisfont provides us with all the set we need but we did need furniture This was taken care of by the other half the Lockett team, big Roger. He used to be known as a lighting man but sailing has taken him away from running lighting boards to boards of another kind. He particularly remembers building a splendid boat for Death on the Nile and the amazing reversible truck for Noises Off. His ingenuity for this production has been extraordinary. Shown a roughish sketch of what Fran had in mind and told to manage with two tables, two benches and eight stools, he has made metamorphic furniture par excellence. Edwin Beecroft has painted many delightful embellishments to Maskers’ sets and has produced the banners and signs for this production, of which Le Cochon qui Pete is the piece de resistance.
These teams are augmented by many other people behind the scenes to enable another major Maskers’ production to grace the lawns of this lovely National Trust property.
click on a photo to enlarge it