The new season at the Theatre Royal, York kicks into life with an action-packed production of The Three Musketeers, who will be swashbuckling their way through the sweltering summer.

Based on Alexandre Dumas' classic novel, The Three Musketeers tells the story of three loyal swordsmen who are joined by an eager recruit to protect the King of France. Together, the foursome battle enormous odds in their attempt to defeat an evil royal advisor and a seductive envoy, who are plotting to overthrow the French crown, fighting against both time and scores of enemies.

Richard Hurford has adapted Dumas' work, and owing to the depth of the novel he appears to have had difficulty in maintaining a sense of brevity. His reasoning appears to be something along the lines of "why tell a story in 90 minutes, when two and a half hours will do"? For some the sheer length of the work will be a joy, but for others it is bound to hinder their enjoyment.

That said, director Damian Cruden and fight director Richard Ryan have done an outstanding job of picking up the pace when possible. The fight scenes are spectacular and swashbuckling hasn't looked this good in years.

The set is of a similarly breathtaking manner and is one of the most lavish seen at the Royal for some time. Designed by Dawn Allsop, the multi function setting also incorporates a performance area that goes beneath the stage.

The cast is large - numbering 16 - although there is no single lead role. As good as John Kirk (D'Artagnan), Tim Welton (Athos), John Paul Connolly (Porthos) and Oliver Boot (Aramis) are, they are equally matched by the solid performances of Matthew Rixon (Cardinal Richelieu), Martin Barrass (King Louis XIII), Phoebe Soteriades (Milady De Winter) and others.

Christopher Madin's musical direction also plays a big part in ensuring that this production is every inch as grand as any blockbuster you might chance to see in the West End.

Dave Windass (reviewed at York Theatre Royal)