The Three Musketeers

An adaptation by John Nicholson and Le Navet Bete from the original book by Alexandre Dumas

July 2022

Directed by Mark Wakeman and Jessi Wilson

AuthorJohn Nicholson and Le Navet Bete with an adaptation the original book by Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas

Born July 24, 1802, Villers-Cotterets, Aisne, France, Dumas was one of the most prolific and most popular French authors of the 19th century. Without ever attaining indisputable literary merit, Dumas succeeded in gaining a great reputation first as a dramatist and then as a historical novelist, especially for such works as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. His memoirs, which, with a mixture of candour, mendacity, and boastfulness, recount the events of his extraordinary life, also provide a unique insight into French literary life during the Romantic period.

Dumas's father, Thomas-Alexandre Davy de La Pailleterie was a general in Napoleon's army. The family fell on hard times, however, especially after General Dumas's death in 1806, and the young Alexandre went to Paris to attempt to make a living as a lawyer. He managed to obtain a post in the household of the Duke d'Orleans, the future King Louis-Philippe, but tried his fortune in the theatre. He made contact with the actor Francois-Joseph Talma and with the young poets who were to lead the Romantic movement.

Dumas's plays, when judged from a modern viewpoint, are crude, brash, and melodramatic, but they were received with rapture in the late 1820s and early 1830s. Henri III et sa cour (1829) portrayed the French Renaissance in garish colours; Napoleon Bonaparte (1831) played its part in making a legend of the recently dead emperor; and in Antony (1831) Dumas brought a contemporary drama of adultery and honour to the stage. Though he continued to write plays, Dumas next turned his attention to the historical novel, often working with collaborators (especially Auguste Maquet). Considerations of probability or historical accuracy generally were ignored, and the psychology of the characters was rudimentary.

Dumas's main interest was the creation of an exciting story set against a colourful background of history, usually the 16th or 17th century. The best known of his works are Les Trois Mousquetaires (published 1844, performed 1845; 'The Three Musketeers'), a romance about four swashbuckling heroes in the age of Cardinal Richelieu; Vingt ans apres (1845; 'Twenty Years After'); Le Comte de Monte Cristo (1844–45; 'The Count of Monte Cristo'); Dix ans plus tard ou le Vicomte de Bragelonne (1848-50; 'Tens Years Later; or The Vicomte de Bragelonne'); and La Tulipe noire (1850; 'The Black Tulip').

When success came, Dumas indulged his extravagant tastes and consequently was forced to write more and more rapidly in order to pay his creditors. He tried to make money by journalism and with travel books but with little success.

He died December 5, 1870, Puys, near Dieppe

The unfinished manuscript of a long-lost novel, Le Chevalier de Sainte- Hermine ('The Last Cavalier'), was discovered in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris in the late 1980s and first published in 2005.

The Real D'Artagnan

Charles de Batz de Castelmore, also known as d'Artagnan and later Count d'Artagnan (c. 1611 – 25 June 1673), was a French Musketeer who served Louis XIV as captain of the Musketeers of the Guard. He died at the siege of Maastricht in the Franco-Dutch War. A fictionalised account of his life by Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras formed the basis for the d’Artagnan Romances of Alexandre Dumas most famously including The Three Musketeers (this show!). The heavily fictionalised version of d'Artagnan is now far more widely known than the real historical figure.

D'Artagnan was born at the Château de Castelmore near Lupiac in south- western France. His father, Bertrand de Batz lord of Castelmore, was the son of a newly ennobled merchant, Arnaud de Batz, who purchased the Chateau de Castelmore. Charles de Batz went to Paris in the 1630s, using the name of his mother Françoise de Montesquiou d'Artagnan. D'Artagnan found a way to enter into the Musketeers in 1632 through the support of his uncle, Henri de Montesquiou d'Artagnan or perhaps thanks to the influence of Henri's friend, Monsieur de Treville (Jean-Armand du Peyrer, Comte de Troisville). D'Artagnan joined the guards in the mid 1630s and served under Captain des Essarts. The regiment saw much action in the early 1640s, taking part in sieges at Arras, Aire-sur-la-Lys, la Bassee and Bapaume in 1640–41 and Collioure and Perpignan in 1642. Whether or not d'Artagnan was personally involved is unclear, but it is likely he took part in some, if not all, of these sieges. While in the Musketeers, d'Artagnan sought the protection of the influential Cardinal Mazarin, France's principal minister since 1643. In 1646, the Musketeers company was dissolved, but d'Artagnan continued to serve his protector Mazarin.

D'Artagnan had a career in espionage for Cardinal Mazarin, in the years after the first Fronde. Due to d'Artagnan's faithful service during this period, Louis XIV entrusted him with many secret and delicate situations that required complete discretion. He followed Mazarin during his exile in 1651 in the face of the hostility of the aristocracy. In 1652, d'Artagnan was promoted to lieutenant in the Gardes Francaises, and fought at the Battle of Stenay in 1654, as well as in sieges at Landrecies and Saint-Ghislaine, then to captain in 1655. In 1658, he became a second lieutenant in the newly reformed Musketeers. This was a promotion, as the Musketeers were far more prestigious than the Gardes-Francaises.

D'Artagnan was famous for his connection with the arrest of Nicolas Fouquet. Fouquet was Louis XIV's finance commissioner and aspired to take the place of Mazarin as the king's advisor. Fouquet was also a lover of grand architecture and employed the greatest architects and artisans in the building of his Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte. He celebrated the completion with a most extravagant feast, at which every guest was given a horse. The king, however, felt upstaged by the grandeur of the home and event and, suspecting that such magnificence could only be explained through Fouquet's pilfering the royal treasury, three weeks later had d'Artagnan arrest Fouquet. To prevent his escape by bribery, d'Artagnan was assigned to guard him for four years until Fouquet was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1667, d'Artagnan was promoted to captain-lieutenant of the Musketeers, the effective commander as the nominal captain was the king. As befitted his rank and position, he could be identified by his striking burgundy, white, and black livery—the colours of the commanding officer of the Musketeers. Another of d'Artagnan's assignments was the governorship of Lille, which was won in battle by France in 1667. D'Artagnan was an unpopular governor and longed to return to battle. He found his chance when Louis XIV went to war with the Dutch Republic in the Franco-Dutch War. After being recalled to service, d'Artagnan was subsequently killed in battle on 25 June 1673, when a musket ball tore into his throat at the siege of Maastricht.

Le Nevet Bete

One of the UK's leading touring physical comedy theatre companies, they are based in Exeter, Devon UK since 2008. They describe their mission as 'to create and tour hilarious, physical and totally accessible comedy theatre using creative and engaging storytelling for absolutely everyone (ages 4 - 104!) throughout the UK and internationally.' They are Associate Artists at the Exeter Northcott Theatre and Artists in Residence at the Exeter Phoenix.

Making accessible work has been at the centre of their ethos right from the very beginning. This saw them diversify into outdoor performance in 2010, quickly becoming one of the UK's most ridiculously outrageous, much-loved outdoor acts, performing to hundreds of thousands from the circus fields at Glastonbury Festival and the beautiful gardens of the Herrenhausen Palace in Hanover, Germany, to the picturesque Plaza de Armas in Morelia, Mexico, and high up on the side of the Rock of Gibraltar.

As well as performing, they have a widely renowned education programme specialising in physical comedy, performer-audience relationships and play, that they have taught in schools, colleges and universities across the world from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London to the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in Mexico City.

PlayThe Three Musketeers

Bench Theatre presents this hilarious adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas's classic. Four actors play nearly forty characters in a wonderful mix of jokes, slapstick and swashbuckling.

Join D'Artagnan, Porthos, Athos and Aramis as they cross swords with the devious Cardinal Richelieu and the murderous Milady de Winter to save the queen's honour and the country from total war!!!! A perfect tonic of joy! There will be wild wigs, dodgy accents and facial hair that defies belief!

You may know the story, but you've never seen it like this!!!! So, book your tickets now for a night of laughter. All for Fun and FUN FOR ALL!!!

Parental guidance: this is a bawdy and raucous show, with some swearing and saucy/sexual innuendo.

The Bench Production

The Three Musketeers Poster Image

This play was staged at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre (formerly Havant Arts Centre), East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


D'Artagnan Jessi Wilson
Porthos and multiple parts Jo Langfield
Athos and multiple parts Chris Davey
Aramis and multiple parts Katie Watson


Directors Mark Wakeman and Jessi Wilson
Producer Sally Hartley
Stage Managers Janice Halsey, Sally Hartley
Assistant Stage Managers Jeff Bone, Becky Davey, Craig Parker, Di Wallsgrove, Alan Welton, Pete Woodward
Lighting Design Andrew Caple
Sound Design Howard Alston
Original Music Archie McKeown
Lighting Operation Mike Jones
Sound Operation Jacquie Penrose
Set Design Pete Woodward
Props making Julie Burt-Wood, David Penrose, Roger Wallsgrove
Flyer Design Dan Finch
Programme Editor Dan Finch
Costumes Di Wallsgrove
Photography David Penrose
Front of House Ingrid Corrigan
Sword Choreography Chris Janes
Special Thanks Stuart Reilly, Jessica Jones, Jaspar Utley, Natasha Ryszka-Onion

Director's Notes

What an honour it is to be writing these Director's notes, for my first ever full-length Bench production. For those of you that don't know, this show was supposed to be in November 2021, but unfortunately had to be postponed last minute and thus moved to July 2022.

Well, back in January of this year, my dear friend Mark Wakeman, and 'co-director', got in contact and asked me the 'cheeky' favour of coming on board to direct the show in its new slot, knowing he would not be able to do so himself this time round. And if I'm honest, I would have never personally chosen 'The Three Musketeers' to direct, and yet I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and genuinely cannot wait to get the finished product in front of an audience.

With Mark's blessing, I have been able to take what he had already worked on before and shape the production into my 'style' of directing, bringing everything onto the stage, with costume changing and character swapping happening in front of the audience, in the hope that this would aid when an actor transforms into someone else (paired with the amazing costumes and interesting accents...).

I couldn't have done any of this without Sally as my amazing Producer - I was thrilled to get the opportunity to work with her! I've also been so fortunate to be surrounded by utterly amazing people in the production team; I thank every single one of them for working so hard to get this show onto the stage.

Chris, Jo, Katie and Stuart, my cast - I have laughed so hard during our rehearsals and been inspired by all of their talents, and I am so grateful for their trust in me as their 'new' director. I cannot wait to watch you shine on stage and get the laughs you so utterly deserve.

Thank you for coming to this show, the Bench and local theatre - we couldn't do any of this without your support!

The biggest of my 'thank you's goes to Mark, for trusting me with this show - I am so sorry that you will not be able to see it for yourself, but I hope I have made you proud and done justice to your production. 'I don't know much...

Jessi Wilson


The NewsJames George

The Three Musketeers at The Spring Arts Centre, Havant: 'Certainly a tonic and well-worth a trip' BENCH Theatre return to The Spring in Havant with their latest offering, the John Nicholson and Le Navet Bete adaptation of The Three Musketeers.

This is one of those comedic adaptations in the same vein as the 'Complete… (Abridged)' series, this time of Dumas' classic swashbuckler, played by a cast of four with support galore from the stage-management team, several of whom spend a lot of time on stage with the cast.

The Bench cast – here Chris Davey, Jessi Wilson, Jo Langfield and Katie Watson – struggle against that most dreaded situation in local theatre – a late cast-replacement. Wilson is the director of the play and has stepped in – very last-minute – as Covid-cover for a suffering actor.

Lady – be proud of what you've done, here; very proud.

It's oftentimes impossible to spot that she's a last-minute stand-in. Yes – occasionally, on opening night, she had to refer to the script but was always, always in control of the character – D'Artagnan – and never once was there a loss of focus or a sense of struggle in the performance. Some of the interaction between her and Langfield as Milady de Winter is the finest in the show.

Langfield, herself, proves the most successful of the cast. The script allows, even encourages Acting (with a capital 'A') from the cast and sometimes Wilson allows them too much liberty in taking this as far as they can go. She should, perhaps, have opted for a tighter rein, but Langfield's performance is rooted in a truth, especially in a couple of second-act scenes where she's talking to her prison-warder. Really nice work.

Watson's best character is Cardinal Richelieu, a baddie so black that she elicited pantomime-boos from the audience on opening-night and Davey excels as musketeer Athos. Again, when he focuses on reality – the meeting between Athos and his believed-dead wife – his talent becomes apparent.

It could do with some tightening up at the beginning of the show – but it's certainly a tonic and well-worth a trip to Havant.

Production Photographs