ONE of the joys of summer theatregoing is the annual Dukes theatre walkabout production at Williamson Park, Lancaster, writes PAUL THURSTON. With over thirty years of memorable shows, including the national award winning The Hobbit in 2016, the event has grown to be the largest of its kind in the UK. The natural beauty of the park’s woodland and dells, the majestic Ashton Memorial, and the breathtaking views over Morecambe Bay all combine to create a unique and memorable setting.

This year, new artistic director Sarah Punshon and writer Hattie Naylor have joined forces to produce an exuberant and very funny new adaptation of Alexandre Dumas classic novel The Three Musketeers. Country bumpkin D’Artagnan (a vibrant and engaging Lucy Jane Parkinson ) arrives in Paris - actually le Ashton Memorial - with a dream to become a musketeer, but is hiding a rather important secret that he is a she! Things go awry when she becomes embroiled with the scheming Cardinal Richelieu played by a deliciously villainous Christopher Bianchi. D’Artagnan then joins the famous and slightly eccentric Three Musketeers - Porthos, Athos and Aramis, to try and save the life of the Queen. The show is fast paced, and the youthful cast, including the excellent community actors, clearly enjoy themselves, with plenty of witty dialogue, groovy dancing and energetic swordplay. In fact, there are more sword fights than you can wave a stick at. Delme Thomas is absolutely hilarious as the most foppish of fops, King Louis. Oh and watch out for a certain, scene-stealing talking horse.

This is a show with a lot of heart with strong archetypal themes of the hero’s perennial journey, sexual identity and female empowerment, reminiscent of Jem Hawkins quest in last year’s production of Treasure Island. The three hours of fast moving action just flew by. The stagecraft and costumes were excellent and all credit to the Dukes technical team for the clarity of the sound and atmospheric lighting.

The capacity audience ages ranged from young children (age 5-plus) to those who would remember the famous Richard Chamberlain film version! Who will ever forget the rumbustious life affirming finale as we 'channel hopped' from Lord Ashton’s magnificent Portland Stone monument to the dell as a radiant sunset illuminated Morecambe Bay. Je t'aime!

It doesn’t matter who you are, don your doublet, plume your hat, cry "All for One and One for all" and head to Williamson Park for a hugely recommended evening of unrivalled swashbuckling family fun.

The Three Musketeers runs until August 18.

Box office 01524-598500.