If Alexander Dumas, The Brothers Grimm and Terry Gilliam met in a shady Parisian drinking den, they might come up with something similar to The Traverse’s visually arresting and entertaining romp, The Three Musketeers & The Princess of Spain.
A co-production with the Coventry-based Belgrade Theatre and the English Touring Theatre, this is neither a pantomime nor a kids’ show; nor is it a comic play or a musical: it’s some unique and highly-effective mix of all four.
Director Dominic Hill and writer Chris Hannan have created a marvellous and grotesque imagined world, based loosely on Dumas’ tale of derring-do and bravery in 17th century France. When a young D’Artagnan (Oliver Gomm) is tricked into losing all emotion by a well-meaning Constance (Cynthia Erivo), practically the only thing he remembers is his desire to become a musketeer, spending the rest of his days fighting for the King of France (Alexander Campbell).
A chance encounter with the Princess of Spain (Beatriz Romilly) being ambushed by the malevolent Cardinal’s men leads D’Artagnan to Paris; and to further adventure, romance and imaginative escapades aplenty. When he finally meets the over-the-hill and over-the-top trio of Porthos (Peter Forbes), Aramis (Cliff Burnett) and Athos (Nicholas Asbury), the action steps up a gear as they unite – all for one and one for all – to defeat the machinations of the Cardinal (Clive Mendus).
The Three Musketeers & The Princess of Spain is a joy from start to finish. A strong ensemble cast carry the often surreal story along at an enjoyable and suitably swashbuckling pace, with some exciting fight choreography (courtesy of Kenny Krupinski), light-hearted songs and music (from composer Nikola Kodjabashia) and a stage design which at times looks like a storybook come to life.
The tale is filled with humour and action – some of which will be a little unsuitable for a younger audience – and some stunning puppetry and marionette design from Rachael Canning. The scenes where the giant puppet of the baby-devouring Lord Mandible tower over D’Artagnan are striking and impressive – the stuff of deliciously dark nightmares.
Standouts from a uniformly excellent cast are Forbes as Porthos, whose hilariously camp, Scottish foppery is the closest the production has to a pantomime dame. Romilly is also enjoyable as the Spanish princess, spoilt little rich girl one moment and vulnerable single mother the next.
A touring production currently making the Traverse its rumbunctious and anarchic home, it’s obvious the company have honed their acts to perfection and appear to enjoy things as much as the audience do.
Though its slightly schizophrenic nature sometimes races ahead of it, leaving little room for some of the more pathos-filled moments to fully sink in, The Three Musketeers & The Princess of Spain is 2 hours of original and entertaining family entertainment which will captivate children and adults alike with its chaotic swashbuckling and delightfully delirious derring do.
The Three Musketeers & The Princess of Spain runs until 24 Dec – times and ticket prices vary, check the Traverse website for details