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Paul Agar as Athos in The Bristol Old Vic production of The Three Musketeers; PC: Alastair Muir


The Three Musketeers - The Guardian Review

4 stars

Old Vic, Bristol

Review by Elisabeth Mahoney
Monday December 18, 2006

The Guardian

This show is perfect for the panto-phobic. If you want festive family theatre without all the naff conventions, then Timothy Sheader's classy production is for you. One small child does faintly cry out "He's behind you!" at the performance I see - the small child is quite correct in this, as someone evil is behind someone saintly - but that's about as interactive as it gets. Buttercup, a pantomime horse in the making and the butt of many jokes early in the play, blissfully remains offstage.

Instead, this is a slick, swashbuckling romp that cleverly updates the Dumas novel to include Sabine, a plucky younger sister for D'Artagnan, but is otherwise indebted to the well-known film versions of the story. There is even a deliberate two-dimensional flatness to Laura Hopkins's dark set of sliding doors and interlocking surfaces, adding to the cinematic feel.

That's not to say this isn't engaging, physical theatre, though. The inclusion of Sabine opens up a convincing new emotional dimension to the story, with D'Artagnan having to negotiate family ties as well as Musketeer loyalties as he makes his way in the world. Plus there is copious swordfighting, especially up and down staircases that obligingly appear for the fight scenes, and much heroic swishing of velvet capes in jewel-like colours.

Sabine aside, this isn't a production overly concerned with novelty, or with any wider social realities. Rather, Ken Ludwig's new version of the story simply refreshes it, distilling its energy and strengthening its timeless appeal. He is aided by some faultless and warm performances. George Rainsford, impressive in his professional debut, plays D'Artagnan with just the right mix of youthful sweetness and wisdom beyond his years, while the musketeers (Paul Agar, Vyelle Croom and Gerald Kyd) provide the biggest laughs. These, along with ravishing costumes, rousing music, a few running gags and a love story, make for a charming, feelgood festive treat. How refreshing to find one without a wicked stepmother, or fairy godmother, in sight.

· Until January 20. Box office: 0117 987 7877.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2006

George Rainsford as D'Artagnan and Samantha Robinson as Sabine.jpg

George Rainsford as D'Artagnan and Samantha Robinson as Sabine in the Bristol Old Vic production of The Three Musketeers; PC: Alastair Muir

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