Alexander Dumas' swashbuckling tale was skewered with expert swordsmanship and a dash of panache.
Jennifer Hurd (director and fight co-ordinator), assistant director Laura Cull and producer Caitlin Jauncey's show had pace and strong narrative drive as the action exploded around Abby Clarke's ingenious set. Goodies and baddies were clearly delineated – and pathos and power boldly explored, enhanced by James Percival's evocative sound design.
Aspiring Musketeer D'Artagnan (likeable James Riding) rides from his home in Gascony to Paris with a letter of introduction from his father to an old friend, the powerful Treville (urbane Dan Wesselink). D'Artagnan's feisty 17 year old sister Sabine (resourceful Robyn Murphy) accompanies him. She's expected at a convent school in Paris – but not on their time. She's determined to do some sight seeing first and to find herself a beau.
On the way, the D'Artagnans' broken backed 30 year old yellow horse is mocked by black clad rogues, led by Cardinal Richelieu's chief henchman Rochefort (swaggering James Soulsby). A duel ensues as gentlemanly D'Artagnan defends his horse's honour. The siblings are lucky to escape with their lives.
Sequential meetings with the three Musketeers of the title then follow. Alon Witzum's Athos, Robert Belok's Porthos and Christian Bevan's Aramis demonstrate to great comic effect that D'Artagnan's fight reflex is hair-triggered, and he will not stay alive long without wiser heads to learn from.
Richlieu's hiss-boo villainy (commanding Thomas Lodge), and that of his 'niece' the seductive assassin Milady de Winter (kickboxer Jessica Ockenden) contrasts with the buffoonish antics of the likeable King Louis XIIII (excellent Will Spence) who likes nothing better than to plan a party.
It's no wonder that his Austrian Queen Anne (Leilani Rogers) takes a lover. In a 300 mile dash to retrieve a diamond necklace and the Queen's honour, D'Artagnan's love interest Constance Bonacieux (delightful Amy Perkis) is placed in mortal danger, as Milady de Winter pursues her for professional and personal vengeance.
Athos' tragic past is beautifully evoked by Witzum, and Richlieu's humiliating public comeuppance is hugely enjoyable. Who hasn't bitten their fist in front of their King when all their plans unravel?