Three Men In A Boat, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, until Sept 8, call 01323 412000 (From The Argus)
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Three Men In A Boat, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, until Sept 8, call 01323 412000
The Original Theatre Company lives up to their name, carefully reworking Jerome K Jerome’s old favourite to make it their own.
Artistic director Alistair Whatley, who also plays J, describes the company’s ‘freshness of approach’; the quote falls short of intimating the creative accomplishment of the show – it really is a bit special.
It succeeds on every level, from the imaginative new script by writer and director Craig Gilbert, to Victoria Spearing’s unlikely and challenging fixed set in a pub. Then there is the creation of pianist Nelly (Sue Appleby), who fits in as though she were always there, and the immaculate comic timing between the three chaps J, George (Christopher Brandon) and Harris (Tom Hackney) – “not to mention the dog”.
In a swift succession of hilarious and very cleverly executed vignettes and sketches, the audience is transported along the Thames from Kingston to Oxford, with more laughs than you can shake an oar at, yet with not a rowing skiff in sight. Here we are entertained with mime and exaggerated gesture, verging on clowning, with some Music Hall thrown in.
Griff Rhys Jones and Michael Palin had the benefits of TV to assist them in conveying this tale of riverine misadventure and pay homage to some historic sights on the way, such as Hampton Court Palace.
In this production the less appreciated passages of the book, when J takes on the role of travel guide, are on crib cards, snatched by the other two fellows whenever he’s on the verge of lecturing them, to gratifying effect.