After a long and dreary day at work Three Men in a Boat is as welcome as a gin and tonic on a hot summer’s day. Based on the novel by Jerome K. Jerome, adapted and directed by Craig Gilbert and produced by The Original Theatre Company, Three Men in a Boat is a complete hoot from start to finish.
The premise is simple: three men in 1898 decide to go on a boating holiday along the Thames. The leader of the group is giving a talk about this fated trip to the Royal Geographical Society (wonderfully played by the audience) but keeps being interpreted by his companions.
The three men in question - J (Alistair Whatley), George (Christopher Brandon) and Harris (Tom Hackney) - are a trio of boater-wearing scallywags who are the kind of chaps that proclaim that afternoon tea is “spiffing” while accusing each other of being “scoundrels”.
The show uses cheeky snippets of audience interaction and is very consciously a play within a play, which means the aforementioned boat is in fact made up of pub tables, chairs and the odd suitcase. Strange hats and walking sticks allow the actors to multi-role, while they constantly tell each other off for breaking “the magic of theatre”.
Alistair Whatley plays straight man J with excellent comic timing, while Christopher Brandon‘s George slinks about on stage like a wily fox. As Harris Tom Hackney's wide-eyed and open face is a treat to watch and, together, the chaps are scrumptiously silly. On occasion the pace does slacken but it is a welcome respite from laughing so hard.
Victoria Spearing's set is a visual treat and with every prop perfectly placed. Alan Valentine's lighting design gives a sly wink to Wind in the Willows and neither he nor Spearing are afraid to poke fun of theatre traditions.
The final round of applause must be saved for Sue Appleby as Nelly the pianist. Slightly off stage she plays the accompanying music with grace and wit, never passing up an opportunity to steal a scene in a wonderfully subtle way.
The main testament to this show is the fact the whole audience, which ranged from 8 to 80, were in stiches, which means it is extremely likely that you, your mother, your grandmother and even your dog will enjoy this show.