1625. France. A young man named d’Artagnan feeds chickens on his family farm and wistfully pines for a different life, one of excitement, valour and duty as a member of the famed Musketeers of the King’s Guard… Then his father turns into an egg, and Alexandre Dumas’s classic is yanked into the darkly surreal world of Barry Award-winning performance duo the Pajama Men, as they present 2 Man 3 Musketeers as part of the 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Taking the fundamental framework of Dumas’s well-loved text and giving it a thorough creative liberation, the narrative follows the young d’Artagnan as he sets off with Tony, the family’s loyal and ‘torso replete’ centaur (that’s right), as they travel to Paris in search of adventure. Once there, the duo team up with Musketeers Athos, Portos and Aramis. Together they encounter the excessively guttural Cardinal Richelieu, aided by the mysterious Milady de Winter, and uncover a dastardly plot to scandalise the French monarchy and ignite international conflict with England.
Utilising a combination of articulate mime and nimble vocal trickery, the Pajama Men (Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen) create a limitless dreamscape of macabre whimsy all, rather fittingly, from their comfort of their respective sleepwear.
Between them, the duo deftly conjures whole villages of characters, and a variety of increasingly elaborate scenes, including some very ‘cheeky’ duels, high-speed horseback chases, and an elaborate showdown between all three Musketeers and a troupe of half a dozen thoroughly obnoxious guards.
As well as the main storyline, Chavez and Allen also expand their abstract world through a series of smaller vignettes, tangential to the primary narrative. Taking a moment to indulge their audience in some of the wider ramblings of their imaginations, they take a moment to poke fun at contemporary theatre culture, middle-class sensibility, and the more absurd elements of training in the theatrical ‘craft’.
With so much content, and with such an abstract approach to storytelling, the show is dangerously fast-paced, with characters and scenes conjured and dissolved again with swift regularity. However each moment is so richly composed and vividly realised, and evolves so organically, that the audience is carried along from each surreal vision to the next with natural ease.
Chavez and Allen are master storytellers, whose innovative reworking of this classic masterpiece provides a refreshingly original, hilarious and deliciously bizarre trip through the most unusual possibilities of the imagination.