The musketeers enter with a swagger, a flourish of the rapier and a lift of the stage- front eyebrow to complement their sideways, puffed-up posturing: intended cliches, amusingly appraised and given extra mileage, with Aramis's foppish funnyman contrasting with the straight Athos and Porthos. These fine French swordsmen talk fluent franglais, win fights in time with the music, drink non-existent Courvoisier and ride non-existent horses which rear up and whinny in unison.
Cut to D'Artagnan, the would-be warrior and show-stealing clown who is sent to Paris, away from a heart-broken mother (the original pantomime dame) on a horse (again of the pantomime variety) called Buttercup.
Indeed, there is plenty of pantomime here: audience eye-contact, over-acting safely set within the realms of ridicule, and a grimacing baddy who is framed in flashes of lightning, and demands a Christmas audience's dose of booing and hissing. A furious pace is maintained by the musketeers (Andrew Dawson, Gavin Robertson and Robert Thirtle) who all double as D'Artagnan and triple as numerous others. It is a masterpiece of lunacy from the company that made its name with Thunderbirds FAB.
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