Friday, 23 August 2019


As a parent, I am eternally wracked with parenting guilt about not being able to afford to do things with the boys. They have never been abroad for example - passport costs for five people alone makes it difficult to justify. I try to make up for it with as many camping trips and naturey adventures that I can, which are not only free but essential when raising three quite active boys! We have occasional trips to London to a museum, but cinema and theatre isn't something we dabble in as a family, especially the latter which if you look at the prices of the West End theatre, it really is quite crazy prices unless you sit in the gods.

Anyway, I'll get to the point. We were invited by the Bristol Old Vic to see The Three Musketeers last night a family comedy for all ages, to their press night. A perfect opportunity to inject a bit of culture into our lives and a great summer holiday outing! We drove an hour from home and managed to find road parking a street away for only £3.60. Bristol was buzzing, hundreds of people spilling onto the pavements enjoying a drink on a summer evening, I'd forgotten quite how lively big cities were and the boys stared wide eyed taking it all in.

We arrived at the theatre and it really is the most magnificent building having been recently renovated and restored, the foyer was heaving with people enjoying a drink pre-show and there was a real mix of young trendy Bristolians, theatre darlings and regular families too with young children.

Our seats were in the pit (or stalls) and we sat wondering at the set, a deconstructed treehouse, with stairs and platforms if you will. My youngest, aged seven, asked quite seriously if there would be real swords and if anyone would be killed - there were swords on the posters so I guess this is a quite reasonable presumption. As I sat waiting with the boys, my mind was racing "oh my goodness how is a seven year old going to sit through this!" and "the 13 year old is used to Giffords Circus, his standards are ridiculously high!"

The production began with the four members of the theatre company Le Navet Bete (which means four daft turnips) introducing themselves on stage and setting the scene. This was a great thing to do, they shared their ambitions for the production - four actors playing a lot of characters (I lost count - 40 maybe?), their friendship and this brought us into their world and part of the production. They were telling a tale of The Three Musketeers that most of us knew or had watched in our childhoods on TV on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The production was physical and fast, no pauses, and scene rolled easily into scene, their costume changes alone totalled 112 (this was in the programme I wasn't counting!)

There were slapstick moments, up to date language woven in, 'WTF', and an occasional fluffed line - which had the audience in stitches and I think added to the experience as the boys turned to me in absolute delight. There was audience participation, as soft toy ducks were thrown to the audience for a shooting scene and everyone had to throw them onto the stage when 'duck' was shouted! There was something for all ages - some saucy moments and such a pure 'in the moment' humour that the cast expertly played to their advantage - especially when D'Artagnan jumped onto a platform and rolls precariously towards the edge of the stage - his face was a picture and had the audience in stitches for a good few minutes, although maybe not the people in the front row on whose laps he would of landed!

There were stand out performers from each of the four main actors; Dan Bianchi, Nick Bunt, Al Dunn and Matt Freeman and they obviously knew each others traits so well that the characters they played were brilliant. Milady de Winter was a cross between Michelle from Allo, Allo, Cruella de'vil and Millicent Clyde in Paddington, an audience favourite as the villain of the piece. The design and costumes also played a huge part with capes fashioned from 1970's flowery curtains and the horses were 70's chopper bikes - I loved when they all rode them along to 'crazy horses' music blaring out!

We all thought the production was brilliant and both boys really enjoyed it and commented on how good the performers were - how rare and special is that moment of walking out of a theatre smiling having shared such an amazing experience and all in agreement? It has certainly given me the confidence to seek out other shows.

The only downside for the whole experience is the main bar, you have to queue for ages, there wasn't enough staff to serve everyone very quickly pre-show and in the interval and I hated the 'jostling' to be served - see I told you we didn't go out much! The staff they had were great but I guess it's difficult to staff for such a short and intense amount of time, my tip would be to seek our the kiosks on the other floors for children's drinks and ice cream and just use the main bar if you want an alcoholic drink.

We would give the production, location and whole experience 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟and will certainly seek out Le Navet Bete productions in the future.

Disclosure: We were invited to review The Three Musketeers at Bristol Old Vic in return for this review. The review is based entirely on our own experience and opinion. Photography supplied. 

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