BBC Radio 7, 14-21 May 2010
Forget Richard Lester's classic mid-70s swashbuckler, with the musketeers (led by
Michael York and Oliver Reed) enjoying themselves in a series of tussles with the evil Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston). This
was a much more hard-headed adaptation of the tale, portraying all four musketeers as fundamentally
self-interested. D'Artagnan (Jamie Glover) was a hot-head youngster, ready to pick a fight with anyone, even though he was
bound to lose. Porthos (Timothy Spall) was more fond of the bottle than the sword, who could not get the musketeers'
rallying-call ("All for one, and one for all") right, despite many attempts to do so. Aramis (Anton Lesser) eventually opted
for a life in the church.
Although the musketeers emerged triumphant in their struggles against Richelieu (Julian
Glover) and the chameleon-like Milady (Imelda Staunton), many of their adventures recalled those of Don Quixote in the sense
that they upheld certain notions of honour and good behaviour which no longer existed in revolutionary France. Consequently
they were ripe for exploitation and/or deception by Milady. The narrator (John Rowe) was well aware of this; hence he regarded
the musketeers' adventures with a mixture of pity and contempt. They might have been brave and strong, but they were also
On the other hand Saunders' adaptation did have its positive elements. The musketeers
remained loyal to one another, despite every misfortune heaped upon them. Despite their individual foibles, they were also
fundamentally decent people - unlike the scheming personalities pitted against them. Moreover one had to admire their enthusiasm
for each and every challenge presented before them; they could hardly be accused of apathy.
Martin Jenkins' production unfolded in a series of two- or three-person dialogues
spoken in the present continuous tense. This gave the story a sense of urgency; as if everything was happening in the here-and-now
rather than in the past. More importantly, it was also great fun, despite its cynical overtones.