Three Men in a Boat (tour – Bury St Edmunds)

A couple of years ago, this three-hander dramatisation of the Jerome K Jerome classic in a basic – almost minimalist staging – had a thoroughly enjoyable and successful tour.

For the new Original Theatre touring production of Craig Gilbert's version of Three Men in a Boat, things are much more elaborate. For a start, there's an extra character throughout and an elaborate set by Victoria Spearing.

Tom Hackney, Paul Westwood, Montmorency & Alastair Whatley
Tom Hackney, Paul Westwood, Montmorency & Alastair Whatley
© Jack Ladenburg

Yes, it's still all great fun as we follow three fairly nonchalant young men on their Thames boating holiday from their London bachelor digs and pub sessions up-river to Oxford. Oh yes, and the dog (Montmorency) goes too.

That extra character is a pianist, Nelly. Anna Westlake builds her up nicely, from someone who would rather be playing Beethoven sonatas than accompanying music-hall ditties. She finds herself in this predicament when the room in which she had planned to give her recital has been double-booked for a talk about the trip by J (as the author names himself).

Nelly get her own back as the provider of sound-effects as the men's holiday finally gets underway and its sequence of things going right – and other things definitely going wrong – is played out before us.

The pub furniture takes on a life of its own as the trio row their hired boat, stop off at various historic and beauty points and eventually decide that enough is enough. You can't fault the actors – Alastair Whatley as J, Paul Westwood as bank clerk George with a cavalier attitude to work and Tom Hackney as Harris, donning a sequence of hats and caps as he swaps roles to become the lodging-house keeper or a Scottish publican.

It's directed by Gilbert with musical direction by Tim van Eyken. The movement, well choreographed and stepped for the song-and-dance numbers, is by Matthew Bugg. It's fair to say that the first-night audience absolutely loved it. But for my part, that old warning about overegging the pudding kept on intruding itself. Sometimes less can be so much more. Its reverse has equal validity.

Three Men in a Boat continues at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds until 12 September and then tours nationally to 8 November.