A swash-buckling Christmas - The BBC Review
The Three Musketeers - directed by Timothy Sheader.
Bristol Old Vic, until 20 January 2007.
Christmas shows can be a bit of a hit-or-miss affair - as directors try to attract family audiences with what they see as Christmas imperatives - lots of songs and audience participation.
Thankfully, director Timothy Sheader and playwright Ken Ludwig decided to forgo the "panto" style of the traditional festive show with this new working of the Three Musketeers, replacing it with a humorous script, lively characters and plenty of swash-buckling action.
And in so-doing they've managed to create what is probably the best Christmas show the Old Vic has produced in several years.
Alexander Dumas' popular tale gets a bit of a modern twist, with the introduction of a young sister (played by the petite Samantha Robinson) for would-be-musketeer D'Artagnan - a device which allows for a little more humour and a lot more girl-power in the story.
Not that the story is at all short of girl-power, with the seductively nasty Milady (Laura Rogers) proving herself more than a match for the king's musketeers.
The musketeers themselves come across as strong individual characters, from the troubled Athos (Gerald Kyd) to the sexy Aramis (Vyelle Croom) to the dapper Porthos (the splendid Paul Agar).
Add a very funny, but totally bad villain, in the shape of Robin Sebastian as the scheming Cardinal Richelieu and an attractive young hero, in the shape of George Rainsford as D'Artagnan and you have all the ingredients for a sumptuous Christmas treat.
The fight scenes are exciting, the set, designed by Laura Hopkins, uses all the space of the Old Vic stage to its full potential, and the costumes are both colourful and quirky.
My two ten-year-old companions had a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and spent the interval clashing sabres.
As the musketeers themselves might say, the show is certainly "one for all."
Copyright The BBC
George Rainsford as D'Artagnan and Samantha Robinson as Sabine in the Bristol Old Vic Production of The Three Musketeers; PC: Alastair Muir