Clowns find the funny side of Napoleonic Wars
So, the ever-cunning Napoleon is being chased across Europe by the elite British task force of Major Blunt, Duke Welly and Sweet William. But fear not... their plan has been intercepted by a group of French misfits hell-bent on saving their emperor.
There you have the basic plot for Napoleon: A Defence, the madcap clowning show presented by the inimitable Exeter-based ensemble known as Le Navet Bete (which roughly translates as "the stupid turnip").
A comedy caper for all the family, featuring live music, physical theatre, clowning, a ship, a cannon and even some beautiful costumes – prepare yourselves for an insight into the truth behind the Napoleonic Wars.
On March 22 and 23 this touring show comes to Plymouth's Barbican Theatre, scene of Le Navet Bete's rib-tickling Christmas production The Greatest Story… Never Told.
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The Napoleon tale is played out by a large cast of characters – including the Duke of Wellington, Josephine, the Russians and Winston Churchill – all portrayed by just four company members, Nick Bunt, Al Dunn, Matt Freeman and Dan Bianchi.
"We thought the Napoleonic era would be a good one to explore; and we wanted to see how clowning could fit into a war scenario," explains Nick. "When we were workshopping it we discovered it could be laugh-out-loud funny, but also full of pathos and sadness. Hopefully the audience will find it quite emotional."
They all met as students on the Plymouth University theatre and performance course, when it was based at Rolle College in Exmouth.
"Al, Matt and Dan graduated in 2006 and, with a couple of other people, put together a final 20-minute piece based on clowning," explains Nick. "They were awarded the highest mark ever in the history of the course."
When their clowning idea began to blossom they established their four distinctive characters and these have endured, while they have continued to develop their ideas and expand a fanbase that stretches to Mexico.