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 The Theatreguide.London Review


The Three Musketeers
Young Vic, Winter 2000-01

Winter in the London theatre always brings a selection of family shows, ranging from dramatized kiddie books to the traditional musical spectacle of the Christmas panto. This year the Young Vic has taken a different tack, with an adaptation (by director Julian Webber) of Dumas' classic.

The result is a swashbuckling romp that thrills kiddies, enthrals inbetweeners and delights adults with a broad appeal that few Christmas shows can match. After all, the story really does have something for everyone.

There are four stalwart heroes, two snarling baddies, two damsels in distress, one fatal charmer, a couple of fools - and, whenever there is the wisp of a hint of a suggestion of flagging energy, a sword fight...

Boy, are there sword fights. There are sword fights during love scenes, sword fights during dinner, sword fights to music, and sometimes just sword fights. Our hero D'Artagnan doesn't just fight with his enemies (and there are plenty of them). When he has nothing better to do, he has a sword fight with his friends, or with his own father. With the action staged on a cross-shaped pair of runways that quadrisect the theatre, the audience is frequently surrounded by sword fights.

Dumas' sprawling novel has been stripped down to a few central episodes. After country boy D'Artagnan arrives in Paris and manages almost immediately to schedule duels with all three of the musketeers, the would-be foes unite to save the Queen from the villainous plotting of the evil Cardinal and the seductive Milady.

This involves locating and retrieving a missing diamond necklace and returning it just in time to avoid an international incident - all of which the valiant four accomplish with the maximum amount of stylish swashbuckling.

As D'Artagnan, the country boy unfailingly prone to fight with every man and fall in love with every woman he meets, Phil Rowson provides his own narration, immediately winning the audience's affection with an open charm that makes him even more attractive than the book's belligerent hero.

Each of the musketeers is nicely individualized, with Ralph Casson's fussy Porthos, Stuart Goodwin's dour Athos and Bruno Munoz Rojas' cheery Aramis taking turns at centre stage.

Some lightning costume changes allow Candida Benson to double as the endangered Queen and villainous Milady, bringing an air of sensual danger to the latter, while David Bailie looms ever-menacingly as the evil Cardinal.

Adaptor-director Julian Webber has found exactly the right note of half-comic derring-do, and I can report that my thirteen-year-old companion, caught just between childish delight in the non-stop action and adult appreciation of the wit and elan, had a great time. So did the younger children sitting near us. And so did I.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The Three Musketeers - Young Vic 2000