In Milady, Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt has produced an edgy new adaptation, full of dramatic reversals, wit, humour and emotion, based on Alexandre Dumas’ popular novel, The Three Musketeers. Milady whisks the audience into a maelstrom of action, swashbuckling sentiments and epic imagery.
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If The Three Musketeers is a boys’ book that boys adore, the reason is that, at its secret centre is an incredibly beautiful woman, intelligent, sensual and unpredictable, with an embrace that can be delicious or lethal, and sometimes both together: Milady de Winter.
She was the first “femme fatale” of my life... The woman with outrageous powers of attraction who can generate such ecstasy, pleasure and fantasy that you’ll give up everything for her. Right from the start, at the tender age of eight, I looked at her with the eyes of Artagnan.
Let’s be frank: in Constance Bonacieux, Artagnan has a pipe-and-slippers relationship of trust and tranquility. Yes, Constance – as her name indicates - is the kind of woman who turns you into a husband, into “Mr Bonacieux”, even if you’re her lover. With her, you’ll grow old and acquire middle-aged spread. Milady, by contrast, represents adventure, the chase, sleepless nights, surprises, betrayals, uncertainty, manic sex, remorse, hope, unkept promises and exhausted mornings. With her, a relationship will be full-on, ecstatic, and ultimately crash and burn. Life, hey...
When I was eight, I had no interest in the books I was offered, the pink or green library books from the children’s section, tasteless concoctions that were instantly forgotten. I even thought with a pang of shame that, unlike my peers, I wasn’t going to like reading.
The Three Musketeers changed my life forever. I was captivated by those five hundred pages. Alexandre Dumas gave me a taste for literature – and for adult life. Suddenly, my heart beat in time to the characters’: at times with Artagnan, at others Athos and Aramis, suddenly I felt close to Richelieu then became Buckingham – for the first time, I was exploring the complexity of the human soul.
There was only one person I didn’t identify with, and that was Milady de Winter. And with reason: I was in thrall to her. It was then that I discovered one of my weak points, one that would be a constant in the years to come: I love a beautiful bitch!
Over time, I’ve deepened – I hope - my relationship with that kind of voluptuous villain and I’ve tried to get to the heart of her mystery.
So, when you see Milady, this Three Musketeers version where the adventuress is the main character, you’ll probably be surprised to understand this monster without judging her. Because, although she often inflicts wounds, she’s just as much a victim. She’s an attacker but a defender, too, with the only weapons she’s allowed by a hard, intolerant society that doesn’t want her.
Even if this show looks like an action drama, there’s a tragedy being played out underneath, a complex tragedy, because Dumas – who was a great author in spite of his negroes and negligence – created a complex, ambiguous universe, where none of his characters, whether Artagnan, Richelieu, or Milady, has transparent, perfect and morally correct or acceptable behaviour. They go to good or evil according to their desires or interests. They’re impure, the whole lot of them
When I wrote Milady, I experienced the pleasure of both a child and an adult: I pulsed again to the story that had thrilled me in the past, but this time, I brought to it the maturity of an adult’s vision.
So, in this Milady with silk, lace and knives, I offer you the female version of The Three Musketeers.
Maybe even the feminist version?
La Libre Belgique - “Milady”, alone against the world
The show “Milady”, premiered on Friday night in the ruins of Villers-la-Ville Abbey, responds, on every level, to its organizers’ statements of intention. Take a masterpiece (Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers), compile all available information about a major secondary character (Milady) and rewrite the story for the stage with that character at its centre: a risky gamble but a tour de force in the hands of Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, an author whose popular appeal makes litterateurs suspicious, just as happened to Dumas. The result is a highly original play that reproduces the main points of action (…).Fast-paced and sustained, the dialogues go straight for the high emotion, of which there’s no shortage in Milady’s terrible adventures – so much, indeed, that Natacha Amal, who delivered an electric, flamboyant performance, appeared to flag during the applause, as though overwhelmed by maintaining such intensity. Amal embodies the spirit of evil, immolated in the closing scene by the adversaries she has raised against herself in her wild quest for revenge on life and men. Pascal Racan’s uncomplicated production powerfully emphasizes the key moments to give the play instant accessibility (…). Sumptuous and innumerable (Milady alone has a dozen dresses), Thierry Bosquet’s costumes are not without self-mockery, apparent, for instance, when Richelieu smugly manipulates the outrageous train of his Baroque cassock.
The Future – The Ruins of Villers at the Mercy of “Milady”
Milady captures the magic of Dumas’ universe revisited, in an outstanding adaptation, by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. Prepare to be entranced. Pascal Racan’s no-holds-barred production gives the show a frenzied rhythm. There are no hesitations and not a moment’s ennui among the ruins. (…) Beautifully illuminated by Christian Stenuit’s deft lighting, the ruins of Villers-la-Ville Abbey have never looked so good and provide a haunting, magical setting that alone would thrill the audience. But the ambitions of this production go far beyond that. Patrick de Longrée and Rinus Vanelslander have served up a feast with all the essential ingredients plus trimmings. Their efforts are crowned with success. Underpinning the show is a first-class text: Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt has written a free adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers with Milady de Winter as the central character. At once, spirited, funny and intelligent, the dialogues constitute an authentic play based on an ambitious, poisonous but nevertheless nuanced female character (…). Natacha Amal brings energy and commitment to her performance as this extraordinary woman and plays her in all her complexity. Eighteen superb actors provide the perfect entourage around the eponymous heroine. (...) Choreographed by Jacques Cappelle, the stage fights are a real treat, and no less so are the stunning costumes designed by Thierry Bosquet, from Richelieu’s interminable blood-red train to Milady’s limitless wardrobe. A class act.
Le Soir – With cloak, sword and lace
Framed by the Cistercian abbey, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt’s adaptation unseats the musketeers. This is popular theatre at its most swashbuckling: sword fights, endless frocks and frills enhanced by grandiose backdrops and lighting. By turning Alexandre Dumas’ perspective on its head, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt reveals the musketeers to be skirt-lifters and, now and then, liars and lynchers – a far cry from the sympathetic aura that tradition grants them. In contrast, by focusing on Milady’s childhood, Schmitt’s adaptation allows attenuating circumstances to the Machiavellian behaviour of this femme fatale (quite literally “fatal”). (...) Pascal Racan’s thoughtfully-paced production intersperses poisonous dialogues with sword fights. A dynamic set design turns the monumental staircase into alcoves, taverns and palaces. Period costumes and Hollywood lighting complete the panoply of this popular show, which you leave rather wishing the cloak would come back into fashion.
La Nouvelle Gazette - Villers-la-Ville welcomes a disturbing Milady
(...) The Villers version of Milady is the work of a writer whose reputation spans the globe. Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt has conceived of a female vision of The Three Musketeers. The life and schemes of this ravishing, devious, wheedling blond belie all the macho clichés and reveal a strong character tormented by jealousy.
Superbly played by Natacha Amal, the young heroine captivates and subjugates the audience with her determination and extraordinary charisma. For his part, Pascal Racan, a loyal champion of the theatre at Villers, has put his name to a marvellous, bewitching production. Action-packed scenes follow in rapid succession, and the audience is transported right to the heart of Alexandre Dumas’s novel by such exceptional talent. (...) On the first night, the show was particularly well received, and it took several curtain calls to satisfy the audience’s enthusiasm.
Marcel Van Caste