Le Navet Bete means “the stupid turnip”: a great company name that feels like a grown-up evolution of a child’s joke, and especially appropriate here. Introducing themselves at the top of the show, the cast of four men explain they were childhood friends (an embellishment – they actually met at the University of Plymouth), and that they’ve chosen The Three Musketeers to adapt because they always fancied themselves as the swashbuckling foursome.
Though seldom returned to, it’s a nice framing device that emphasises the company’s camaraderie and gets the audience to invest in the game of the show. Ti Green’s set is a treehouse den that most little boys could only dream of, and Fi Russell’s costumes mix frilled 17th-century shirts with jeans and Converse. It’s all dress-up and make believe.
At times, this has the strange effect of dampening the comedy. There’s a tendency, especially in scenes featuring murderous femme fatale Milady DeWinter (Matt Freeman), to aim for the broadness of panto-drag or a nudge-nudge sex joke, when it’d be funnier if the focus were on the actual stakes of the scene.
But there’s plenty that lands too, especially the physical sequences – a recurring gag in which window frames come flying in, or a perilous and genuinely exciting play fight. What’s obvious all the way through is the delight Le Navet Bete takes in putting on a show – in entertaining people, and all the concomitant pleasures of being a theatre company and a gang of friends. Watching is playing along.