It was an airless evening for ElevenOne’s first open-air summer show of The Three Musketeers. With Oxford’s ancient town wall as a fitting backdrop, in Ken Ludwig’s and Alexandre Dumas’ version of the plot D’Artagnan is a wet behind the ears 18-year-old, eager in his quest to become a Musketeer.
Played by Daniel Taylor, he brings the character to life with boundless energy, bouncing off the grass in his fight scenes, as if made of rubber.
Saddled on the journey to Paris with his pesky sister Sabine (Erica Gouveia), and the aged family horse Buttercup – only fit for glue – by his side, he soon finds trouble with the mischievous Musketeers.
Peter Sheward-Himpson was a charming Athos who particularly commanded attention. Simon Marie as Porthos and Vijay Hare as Aramis made up the trio of loveable rouges. Complete with some pristine handlebar moustaches, well-arched eyebrows and twinkles in their eyes, the crowd looked forward to their every move.
The fights were well rehearsed, yet realistic enough to make you wince and feel a little unnerved if sitting in the front row. The actors entered into them with great gusto and it was pleasing to see female cast members included.
The whimsical King Louis XIII (Matt Addis) was more interested in deliberating over food menu’s than running the country, adding camp comedic value, while the conniving Cardinal Richelieu – Colin Burnie – was equal parts funny and sinful. This being Colin’s one hundredth Oxford production(!) – he clearly knows how to delight his congregation.
As the deadly rivalry between the Musketeers and the Cardinal’s guards thread through the tale, the flaming pistols and shining swords glinting in the sunshine provided enough excitement to keep us engaged throughout.
Ruth Walker was fierce as Milady, just as all these 17thcentury female characters were not to be messed with, as spirited and feisty as the men.
With a roaring ending, both cast and crew worked hard in the heat, some visibly dripping with perspiration.
See it until Saturday (27th) in the Faculty of History garden off George Street. Just remember your insect repellent and you should have a jolly old time.
The winding story was packed into two hours with a 15-minute interval.
Tickets available at oxfordplayhouse.com.