Review: The Three Musketeers at NST City

Audience reactions to The Three Muskateers at Nuffield Southampton Theatres

By Thea Hartman

I didn’t know what to expect heading into the NST for Le Navet Bete’s production of Dumas’ classic The Three Musketeers. Subtitled ‘A Comedy Adventure’ and with a poster with some rather striking facial expressions and a BMX, I wasn’t sure whether I was about to watch the actual musketeers being heroic or four men running around in musketeer outfits for children’s enjoyment.

As it turned out, it was definitely more of the latter, but without the negative connotation – I enjoyed the running around perhaps more than the children. The classic, exhibitionistic comedy acting was finely interlaced with a sterling production, and a script which is both timely and timeless. In a Nuffield Southampton Theatres spring season filled with literary adaptations, this production does not beat around the bush when it comes to questions of adapting a literary text and tailoring it to their audience. The apparently necessary aspect of historical and textual accuracy is dropped from the very beginning, when the four actors present themselves to their audience out of costume, breaking the fourth wall and clarifying that the production does not claim to hold the ultimate understanding of the 700-page novel, but just wants have as much fun with it as possible, without taking itself very seriously.

Whether or not this is a recipe for a great adaptation is a completely different, less fun conversation with likely no verdict whatsoever. The only conclusion I can get to is that it’s definitely a recipe for roaring laughter. The four actors were a delight to watch, having the time of their lives on stage, flawlessly switching between characters with quick changes of costume, and even when the changes weren’t as smooth as they should have been they acted so naturally that I doubted whether or not the mistake was actually planned. Stand-out characters were Madame De Winter, Cardinal Richelieu, and D’Artagnan, played with fantastic consistency throughout, but every single change of costume brought a fresh round of raucous laughter, whether caused by an oblivious Lord Buckingham or a vindictive nun. The sheer amount of events happening and the relations between all the characters were confusing, but instead of running away from this, Le Navet Bete flipped it on its head, aware of just how much was happening and having the characters explain things they did not understand themselves.

Audience engagement was a huge positive part of the show. The fourth wall, removed from the very beginning of the play, never returned, with the actors thriving when improvising reactions to the audience’s own. The funniest moment of the show required the audience to throw plush ducks at Madame De Winter as she was proving her hunting skills to Lord Buckingham. The willingness of the actors to improvise and the natural manner in which they did it really elevated the show.

The production value was also outstanding, from a simple yet versatile set, to the similarly versatile costumes. The stage was a constant whirlwind of moving props, flying costumes, and musketeers riding bikes instead of horses – and whilst it may have seemed quite natural, it required calculated coordination and elaborate choreography that did not go unnoticed. However, it was the sound that truly enhanced the comedic effect. For instance, if the shotgun sounds didn’t play exactly as Madame De Winter was ‘shooting’ the plush ducks, the effect of that scene would have been significantly diminished. The sterling synchronization between sound effects and the onstage acting deserved a standing ovation in itself.

Overall, The Three Musketeers: A Comedy Adventure was a witty, self-aware show, unafraid of tapping into the childish side of all the audience members – children or adults – of questioning its own script, or of pushing the limits of what onstage performance is: if you get a line wrong, acknowledge it and do it again, it might make the whole scene funnier that it was meant to be intentionally!

Le Navet Bete provided a complete escape from the worries of everyday life – I laughed more than I have in a long time, and isn’t that what we all need?


The Three Muskateers: A Comedy Adventure ran at NST City from Tuesday 18 – Saturday 22 February 2020.

For more details of NST’s literature loaded spring season – featuring Pride and Prejudice (sort of), War of the Worlds, Wuthering Heights and more – click here.

Review: Heist at NST City (or Our First Dance Show Experience!)

By Thea Hartman and Kate Briggs-Price

To our shame and huge excitement and curiosity, the opening night of ZoieLogic Dance Theatre’s Heist was the first time either of us had seen a dance-only production. And on top of that, whilst between us we have a few years’ worth of mostly amateur dance experience, we know nothing about contemporary dancing, which was the show’s predominant style. In a nutshell, we went to the opening night of this show with absolutely no expectations and completely ready to see contemporary dance with fresh eyes.

And that is exactly what happened. As ZoieLogic Dance Theatre Artistic Director Zoie Golding expertly put it (she created the show after all), Heist mixes “the adventure of Mission Impossible, the gaming of Crystal Maze, and a little bit of the heart of The Goonies” – an emotionally dynamic, cleverly woven, action-packed show bursting with the most graceful moves which kept us on the edge of our seats throughout.

One of the most striking aspects of Heist was in the way it established the tone so promptly and accurately from the very first minute with the help of soundtrack and a villain with robotic moves, deeply unsettling facial expressions and Matrix-like costume. We like to think that we don’t get scared easily, but we definitely found ourselves huddling close into each other as the villain slowly approached our end of the stage. This almost instant characterization was also instilled into the four ‘good’ guys – despite there being absolutely no words spoken for the entire duration of the show, we quickly got a real sense of the dynamic between the characters in the first act, as their movements started to organize themselves into patterns and motifs to show their quirks and mannerisms, their teamwork and their willingness to do whatever it takes to escape the prison.

Interestingly, the storyline was quite minimalistic. Whilst the general plotlines were conveyed by the characters’ interaction with the set, the soundtrack and the dancers’ movements and facial expressions, the lack of words brought with itself a lack of specificity which Heist turned on its head into a vagueness encouraging audience engagement. We did not know exactly why the four men were imprisoned, or what they tried to set free at the end of it, but when we talked about it after coming out of the show we both thought it had something to do with identity. Whether or not that’s what it actually was about is a different question.

The great thing about the show is that none of this guesswork actually matters: you don’t get brownie points for identifying one specific metaphor the author wanted to convey. The focus was simply on how the incredibly skilful and graceful movements affected the audience’s emotions (and trust us, they did). The plot was merely shaped by some classic heist film tropes (e.g. the chase scene), and the fantastically adaptable set which enhanced the experience of the show by being as fluid as the dancers’ movements; the essence was all in the relationship between movements and emotion. As the dancers were climbing the prison’s walls showing some real parkour skills, we waited anxiously for them to fall. As they supported each other through their feeblest sequences of choreography we felt feeble with them. As they were running from the villain through the set which became a maze we were rooting for them to get away.

For us, that was the essence of Heist. It did not matter that we knew close to nothing about contemporary dance. It only mattered that we opened our eyes and hearts to see and feel this show, and we left NST City all the richer for it.

Watch the trailer for Heist below, and catch ZoieLogic Dance Theatre’s next show @zoielogic or at www.zoielogic.co.uk.

Introducing our 2019/20 Arts Ambassadors: Kate Briggs-Price

Kate Briggs-Price in action

MA Global Media Management student Kate Briggs-Price talks about her time at university, her passion for film-making, her experience with University Societies and what she brings to the team as an Arts Ambassador!

Now in my fifth year studying at the University of Southampton, I’ve spent my time trying to discover what I enjoy and am passionate about. Both in my professional and personal life, I have pursued many avenues and have ultimately come to the conclusion; art has always been something that connects the people and the decisions.

Being busy and pushing myself to achieve everything I possibly can is a major driving force of my personality. I am very lucky that my Master’s degree involves practical film making, but also gives me the freedom to shoot and direct in my spare time. The arts have given me the chance to not only to push myself creatively but given me the discipline, scope and the technical skills to create both professionally and for pleasure.

My passion is definitely film-making, whether that be a documentary film or creative shorts. I have a range of projects on the go – a short film up for release at the end of January and a documentary that will be released both as a short and hopefully a feature-length film by the end of September 2020. Being a Photography and Videography Ambassador gives me a chance to develop and work on technical skills whilst also helping to give people access to art around Southampton. Whether that be through their phones or through media, we can help bridge the gap of intimidation that people often feel about attending events in the ‘art world’.

I’ve always focussed on multi-media storytelling. As Head of Marketing for Surge Radio –  live shows, podcasts, graphics and social media are all things I have been developing. The interconnections between all the different strands of media working together to create an experience is what interests me. Although not directly connected to media, I am also President of the Erasmus Student Network Southampton. This is the largest student organisation in Europe, taking care of all the visiting international students who come to the university – my interest in this came from my experience of my year abroad in Germany. This really developed my interest in people, which is at the heart of my love for art and really everything I have done at University.

As I have been involved in over 9 different societies during my time here, I have had the opportunity to learn and grow from a huge range of people. We often connected through the process of making art or through experiencing it together as a way to express something we had in common or something that was different about us. I want to make sure that students discover not only the art available to them in Southampton but also the people behind that art. The artists, often from around the world, have so much experience and perspectives that they are willing to share.

Introducing our 2019/20 Arts Ambassadors: Thea Hartman

Thea Hartman during her time as Editor of The Edge magazine

MA English Literary Studies student Thea Hartman talks about her passion for escapism, textual analysis, her experience of the Southampton art scene, and what plans she has for her time as an Arts Ambassador!

This is going to sound ridiculously cliché, so brace yourselves, because I really don’t know how else to say it: yes, I have loved art in all its forms for as long as I can remember. The philosophy behind this love is simple: if you’re looking to escape the real world for a bit – and I honestly bet you do – there is no better way to spend those rare spare hours than with a film, some music, a trip to the theatre, a gig, or many a good book. 

As far as that goes, I am an expert fugitive. My Mum taught me how to read early because I would always ask her to read me one more story and she couldn’t catch her breath. And that hasn’t really changed (well, I did learn to read, but you get the idea) – ‘one more story’ became a BA English degree, and then an MA English Literary Studies degree, with a focus on twentieth century literature. Turning a text on all its facets, understanding it in its present and in our own – to me, there’s nothing quite like it, even if it does sometimes push my limits so much that I can’t touch a book for months… Luckily, there are other ways to keep escaping.

And because we’re in Southampton, we have loads of them right on our doorstep! I started discovering the Southampton arts scene due to The Edge, the University’s student entertainment magazine, which sends writers to a wide range of theatre shows and concerts (even after over three years of writing for it I’d probably have a hard time naming all the music venues in Southampton…), but it wasn’t until my summer internship with ‘a space’ arts that I had the chance to get to know the arts community in Southampton and learn just how complex and welcoming it is!

I’m not an artist, so I’m not a stranger to thoughts like “I’m not artsy enough to go there,” or “I don’t belong there” – but I realised I couldn’t be more wrong. And that’s what I’m most excited about doing as an Arts Ambassador – helping to spread the word not only about what the arts scene in Southampton has to offer generally, but also about what it has to offer to those who think like I used to. I’ll be found mostly on this blog and on social media, trying to put all these feelings into words as I explore Southampton’s art scene with Molly and Kate this semester – I hope you join us on this journey!

Introducing our 2019/20 Arts Ambassadors: Molly Ellis

Molly Ellis (left) filming with SUSU TV

Third year Music student Molly Ellis tells of the impact the arts have had on her life here at University of Southampton and looks ahead to the next few months in her role as Arts Ambassador.

I had such a good time working as an Arts Ambassador last year that, when the opportunity came up again, I couldn’t not apply! Last year, I had a blast reviewing theatre, art exhibitions and concerts, attending events and networking with both my peers and professionals in the industry. This last year has really opened my eyes as to what kind of future could be possible in the arts beyond university.

This year I hope to continue working to promote the arts to both my fellow students and the local community. It’s so important for students to understand that the arts you’re involved with at university could pave the way to a career, regardless of your degree. Showing that the gap between the ‘student’ and ‘professional’ worlds is not that wide is something I’m really keen to do – exploring these possibilities and networking is what university is all about!

As a third year music student, the arts have shaped pretty much my entire time at University. I’ve been lucky enough to start shaping my passions for music, theatre and filmmaking into the beginnings of a future beyond graduation- something I’m incredibly excited about.

I’m a freelance filmmaker and photographer and have had the pleasure of working with some amazing groups, such as SÓN and SUSO, and on some cinematography passion projects- one of which has just been accepted for screening at the Canadian International Comedy Film Festival!

I am also a Musical Director for musical theatre society Showstoppers after joining last year (on the advice of previous Arts Ambassador Ben McQuigg). I soon found myself stuck in with nearly every show and my first as Musical Director, ‘I Love You Because’, is coming up at the beginning of February! Getting stuck in with all of these activities across a breadth of arts topics has been an incredible experience, and has really extended the scope of skills learnt during my degree. I encourage absolutely everyone to get involved with at least one arts passion they have during their degree!

Being an Arts Ambassador for me is about both being a role model for participation and engagement with the arts, but also being a gateway to helping others access the arts, particularly those that think ‘it’s not for me’. There’s a wealth of things out there to explore in Southampton and beyond!