CountofMonte_image1_WEB-480x360Trying to cram more than 1,000 pages of Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo into a two-hour show was never going to be an easy task. Company Boudin make a good stab at it but there’s something missing from this likeable re-telling: there’s no darkness, no danger and very little suspense. Granted, the cast of three (Alex Dunbar, Kali Hughes and Dan Winter) have given themselves a tough job. The story spans decades and countries, touches on love, greed and revenge: it’s a big story with big themes. The entertaining and energetic cast do a great job of enlivening the mostly bare stage, and tell the bulk of the plot without too much bother about the details.

Unfortunately, some of the missing details are what might flesh out Andy Burden’s production to the point where the characters become people in whom we can invest. None of the portrayals are bad – Dunbar, Hughes and Winter are a talented threesome – but none of them are onstage long enough at any one time to make us care about them. Winter, for example, plays the horribly wronged Edmund Dantes, who spends 14 years in a dungeon on the jealous denouncement of a business rival conspiring with a love rival. He’s completely central to the piece, becoming the eponymous Count on his escape from jail, and returning to be revenged upon his betrayers. Except that we only see his imprisonment for seconds at a time, and his torment, his loneliness and his despair are only briefly touched on. The story’s salient points speak for themselves (of course he wants revenge after 14 years in jail), but perhaps a little more attention to detail could make them shout a little louder.

There are times, too, when the self-deprecating touches become a little self-indulgent; there is one too many knowing aside, not helped by a slightly clumsy framing device: the three are workers in a Cuban cigar factory (no, me neither) who read The Count of Monte Cristo aloud to pass the time, quickly becoming drawn into the tale and acting it out for us. Gatz this ain’t, though, and I can’t help but feel that they would have done better to tell the story in a purer form, focusing on drawing us into the world of the Count, which they do very well. When the cast dispense with their “real” personas as factory workers and do away with gimmicks, they tell an extremely fine story. They switch between roles effortlessly (and make it a joke when they are trying to play too many people at once) by putting on coats or a shawl, and tell the story of the Count’s revenge with sincerity and humour. It’s not quite enough to compensate for the overall tweeness of the telling, but they have not given themselves an easy task.

The Count of Monte Cristo is at the Brewery Theatre in Bristol until 20 April. For more information and tickets visit the website.