The Little Theatre’s annual Christmas pantomime The Free Musketeers took the audience on a rollercoaster ride packed with laughs and thrills

The curtains went up to show three men engaged in a sword fight. The lost Royal How (half cow-half horse) had been found and was being taken back to where it belonged... it was obvious that here was a performance that would keep the audience thoroughly absorbed and entertained right from the word go.

The 18th edition of The Little Theatre's pantomime The Free Musketeers was also a great way to ring in the Christmas spirit. A spoof of Dumas’ famous tale The Three Musketeers, the presentation was a well-scripted Indian-spiced adaptation with a long storyline, concluding as pantomimes do with the triumph of good over evil. Other pluses were some fun characters, and the brand’s quintessential over-the-top slapstick comedy.

Cerelac (Krishnakumar) gets hold of the map of destiny; he wants to reach Paris and take control of the world. However, destiny has other plans for him. What’s more, two of his fellow musketeers Zorro (Pooja Balu) and Porthos (Abhishek Joseph George) are against his plan and this soon results in a brawl. A gun-shot kills Cerelac (or so they think) and Zorro and Porthos escape from the scene, scared and guilty of having killed a fellow musketeer. The Leprechauns —the keepers of the map of destiny— have a vision that the map which the youngest Leprechaun was fooled into trading, is going to fall into the hands of The Dark Lord (Prashanth Oliver) and decide to prevent this from happening. The King, on the other hand, wants the map to find the secret formula for hair oil to cure his baldness. Pappu (Darshana Rajendran) finds Princess Basanti's (Anu Bhaskaraman) favourite pet and uses the opportunity to seek Basanti’s hand in marriage. The king soon announces their wedding. The celebration sees Paris' most beautiful woman maDame Coco Chanel (Naren Weiss) groove to foot-tapping numbers. She takes the love birds to the land of stars where the Dark Lord holds Basanti captive and asks Pappu to inform the king. He demands two things — the map and maDame.

Tale with twists

In the scenes that follow, the characters undergo several transformations (Dark Lord and Cerelac), there’s an unusual turn of events (The Witch decides to adopt Hansel and Gretel), couples unite (Dark Lord and Coco Chanel) and the map of destiny definitely does not foresee its own destiny of getting destroyed to prevent its misuse.

Unlike some of The Little Theatre’s earlier performances, this year’s pantomime stood out as all the characters got equal importance, there were hardly any crass jokes; and the usual dance-fight sequence at the end was omitted. The only thing, however, we wished for was some crispness in the plot. From foot-stomping familiar numbers (such as ‘Lemon Tree’, ‘Gangnam Style’ and ‘When You Say Nothing At All’ [Notting Hill]), state –of-the-art props, well-designed costumes and fight sequences to great acoustics and lights, the adventure story with its many twists and turns had everyone in splits till the end. Drawing from its English tradition of combining folk tales with popular songs and country humour, the dialogues and direction by Krishnakumar Balasubramanian deserve special mention.