Arrow & Traps theatre, in league with Rather Nifty, brings to life Alexander Dumas’ tome of a novel The Count of Monte Cristo. Filled with espionage, outrageous Italian accents, and some of the silliest clowning of the 21st century, this rarely seen stage adaptation delves into the sublime and the sybaritic. As a troupe of 3 performers introduce themselves and their multitude of characters, there is a feeling that something untoward may be about to occur… 

Adapted by 23 of the company - Oliver Malam and Adam Elliott - the story follows protagonist Edmond Dantes, played by Malam, who is betrayed by antagonist Fernand Mondego, played by the final member of the troupe - Lucy Ioannou. Dantes is abandoned in The Chateau D’if, an island garrison turned prison until his unlikely escape with the assistance of Abbe Faria, excellently portrayed by Ioannou, who appears to be on the whacky backy! With a final tip-off of an undiscovered fortune, Dantes makes for the island of Monte Cristo where he becomes the Count of Monte Cristo and redesigns himself poised for revenge. 

Unfortunately, I can’t ratify the accuracy of the adaptation to Dumas’ text… I’d be particularly surprised if the prison rat features as heavily as Elliott’s puppet rat interruptions. In actual fact, I think one or two of the chapters may have been slightly compromised by the silly clowning of the trio. Dantes’ pirate nemesis Luigi Vampa is a prime example of the subterfuge, as he flamboyantly vaunts across Alice Neale’s purpose-built rostra wearing a cardboard cutout boat designed by Ross McGregor, assisted by Ioannou in a boat hat (an impressive feat of artistry designed by Tom Telford). 

Director Ross McGregor’s story climaxes with a frenetic fight scene choreographed by Felipe Pacheco. Ioannou finds themself playing both the perpetrator Mondego and the hero of the hour Edouard, simultaneously. Malam, Ioannou, and Ioannou’s alter-ego struggle in a ludicrous final battle almost equaling the hilarity of Malam’s own struggle with his fake beard that refuses to stay on his face. Malam’s everyman character drives the epic forward from start to finish, heightening the contrast between the silliness of the others, culminating in a silly flop when Dante throws his newspaper at Mondego’s gun announcing, “news travels fast”, then as an afterthought, “I don’t really know what I thought would happen there”.

Elliott’s multi-rolling is seamless, the previously mentioned Luigi Vampa becomes Monte Cristo’s accomplice, whilst their evil bureaucrat Villefort takes centre stage with an incredibly flexible spine putting Olympic gymnasts to shame. 

The 2.5 hours of madness is the only kind of madness worth watching in the current climate. 

It runs until 26 August.


Review: Sebastian Calver