Laughs from the riverbank

three men in a boat

Ship ahoy: Paul Westwood as George and Alastair Whatley as Jerome with Harris played by Tom  Hackney, providing an extra set of arms. Picture: Jack Ladenburg

Three Men in a Boat

The Original Theatre Company

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry


JEROME K. Jerome’s classic comedy is fresh as a daisy in this dramatic re-telling given the ‘original’ treatment.

It is the story a ‘holiday’ on the Thames of three friends and their dog Montmorency - who is absolutely no trouble.

There’s Jerome (Alistair Whatley), himself as storyteller and general historical know all with his key cards, Harris (Tom Hackney) constantly worrying about food and George (Paul Westwood) who’s the fool of the party.

We start in the back room of the rather grubby ‘Elusive Pelican’ sometime in Edwardian Surrey, with a delightful Debussy recital from Miss Nelly Hancock (Anna Westlake) interrupted by the double-booked talk by Jerome about his fateful and infamous trip.

His two friends quibble with his memories and attempt to dramatise in situ what REALLY happened with hilarious results. It may be a collection of skits, sketches and songs but, oh boy, the energy and inventiveness with which they are portrayed is amazing.

We, as audience, double as audience for the rendition – they create a boat out of the pub furniture, have a bull fight with their ‘Sary Gamps’ and play all the parts of the people they meet on their trip. Mrs Poppet was brilliant as was the indecipherable Scotsman both achieved by Harris (Tom Hackney).

The whole is gloriously peppered with anachronisms, for example the music from Titanic makes an appearance, but the music hall songs that create musical interludes are wonderful, ‘I like pickled onions’ and ‘Any old iron’ in particular.

The laughter of a little girl in the audience was infectious at the part where ‘everything stopped for tea’, slurping in unison for an incredible amount of time – the tension was tangible! Were they really going to take 35 minutes!

The stroke of genius for me was the moment when the frenetic energy came to a complete halt as the body of a young woman is found in the river. George’s sweet folk song was such a contrast to the rest of the drama that it will stay with me for a long time. Directed by Craig Gilbert this is well worth seeing, and I, for one, will look out for ‘Original’ work in the future. To 18-10-14

Jane Howard



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