Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Wigs, hats and false moustaches abound as boys play girls, a girl plays a boy and a girl pretending to be a boy in this fast paced interpretation of Dumas’ classic. And it’s all set to music in wonderful four part a cappella harmony.
Back after a break from last year’s Fringe, Barbershopera have clearly lost none of their creativity and polish. The Three Musketeers, their latest offering of idiosyncratic takes on well-known stories, bears all the hallmarks of Rob Castell’s and Tom Sadler’s wit and collective instinct for knowing what will work for a four part a cappella group. Director Sara Tipple also deserves great credit for taking the writers’ raw material and weaving it into a whirlwind of entertainment, complete with spin-on-a-sixpence choreography, seamless scene shifts, character changes and creative use of a series of simple and remarkably effective props.
In this loose interpretation of Dumas’ original treatise, Cardinal Richtea is intent on demolishing the petite village of Pissy Pouville, deep in rural France, to make way for a palatial holiday home for himself and his amour, Milady. Meanwhile, Louise XIII has fallen for the charms of the Duke of Buckingham and given him an iconic French treasure, a pair of golden plums. Fearing the ire of his people when they find out that their plums been whipped by the arch enemy, the king enlists the help of The Three Musketeers to recover the treasure and deal with the scheming Cardinal.
It’s all wonderfully silly and surreal as the four performers – Lara Stubbs, Richard Holt, Pete Sorel-Cameron and Rob Castell – slip effortlessly between characters using hats, extravagantly coiffed wigs, swords, ruffs, spectacles and false moustaches. Boys play girls and the girl plays boys and a girl pretending to be a boy in a wonderful cocktail of pastiche, farce, commedia dell’arte and pantomime as the story twists and turns to its novel conclusion.
Alliterative lyrics laced with double entendre and dollops of innuendo are wrapped in some exquisite four part harmonies that allow the quartet to demonstrate their all-round skills as performers. Each of their excellent voices has depth and an astonishing range, particularly the mercurial Castell who slips effortlessly from bass to counter tenor and back again and Stubbs’ rounded soprano voice showing why she sings for a living.
It’s an hour of enchanting entertainment which clearly grabbed and held the attention of the packed, cavernous Pleasance Two auditorium. Whilst it’s probably on a little late in the evening (11pm) for youngsters, Barbershopera’s vivacious delivery will appeal to anyone from teenagers upwards and they are once again setting the benchmark for comedic opera performance on what looks to have been a shoestring budget. All for fun and fun for all – well worth waiting up for!