REVIEW: Panto giggles galore with Buxton Drama League

Peter Stubbington as Dame Elderflower Presse and Barrie Goodwin as Porthos. Photo contributed.
Peter Stubbington as Dame Elderflower Presse and Barrie Goodwin as Porthos. Photo contributed.
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Ooh la la - the thriving Buxton Drama League offers Gallic giggles galore with its latest offering, a panto version of The Three Musketeers, co-written by Robbie Carnegie and Jason Stevens.

A large cast immediately engages the audience as smiling faces deliver the first chorus number, Downtown. Equally impressive are the Parisian principals with Alice Johnson transforming herself into a convincingly manly D’Artagnan, the wannabe musketeer, and sweet-voiced Miriam Muncaster proving delightful as his love interest, Constance.

In the noble cause of turning adventure into panto, some fun new characters have been invented including D’Artagnan’s biscuit-barmy canine, Dogtagnan (Ellie Hibbert), and Constance’s mum, Madame Presse (‘call me Elderflower’), a cuddly performance by Peter Stubbington.

This wouldn’t be a panto without baddies however and Emma Craufurd-Stuart is a great find as femme fatale Milady de Winter, who wants to take control of all business in France - ‘I’ll be like Tesco!’ – assisted by her snivelling sidekicks Madame Roquefort and Mademoiselle Camembert (excellent comic performances from Karen Nicholas and Sally Shaw respectively). Milady meets her match in dastardly Englishman the Duke of Buckingham (Paul Harrison), who dreams of bringing down France. An electrifying performance of ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us’ becomes a turning point as they realise they are actually rather well suited…

It is surely up to D’Artagnon to save the nation but he is far too busy taking part in silly duels with musketeers, Athos, Porthos and the oddly feminine Aramis. The comedy does not stop there with tireless Elderflower trying to get a ‘French quiche’ out of ‘totty magnet’ Buckingham and becoming a bake-off blunderer when she stands in for her chef (who has lost the ‘huile d’olive’).

In true panto tradition there is also a playful bench scene with the quaking characters trying to avoid the President of the ghosts, Charles de Ghoul… Stand by for a great twist!

Drama League pantos are always innovative and it is good to see director Robbie Carnegie taking risks with his casting as well. New talent mixes happily with old and there is a promising crowd of mini-musketeers coming up through the ranks. Special mention should be made of week one’s youthful King and Queen, Joseph Barry and Alice Lowdon, who more than hold their own in their scenes with the adults.

With its carefully chosen songs, even performances, great costumes and consistent joie de vivre, this is a feel-good show from a group that really seems to live up to the musketeer motto – ‘One for all and all for one!’ Baguette for yourselves by booking tickets for this weekend from Burbage News or Clowes the Chemist.

Stephanie Billen

l The Three Musketeers continues at the Burbage Institute on Friday February 10 at 7.30pm, and Saturday February 11 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.