Author: Jerome K Jerome
Director/Adaptor: Craig Gilbert
Musical Director: Sue Appleby
Reviewer: Bill Avenell
The Public Reviews Rating:
I have always loved Jerome K. Jerome’s classic story of Harris, George, Montmorency and J’s trip up the Thames, its dry humour describing those amusing encounters with the Meat pie, the Irish stew, the Swans and the Steam Launch and many others. But how could a stage adaptation deal with these situations in one place and with one set; would they get the tone right and include all the bits I love; how could they possibly capture all of Montmorency’s idiosyncracies (for the uninitiated Montmorency is a dog!)? Well they did and I am sure the result would have pleased the author.
How did they do it? Victoria Spearing’s clever set of the Back Room in ‘The Elusive Pelican’ gave them a head start and the raw materials with which to conjure up images of boats, pubs, islands and of course the River. The lighting set developed by Alan Valentine gave them added flexibility. Pamela Wiggin’s costumes set just the right tone (as laid down by Jerome of course) for the three characters, and the musical ideas of Sue Appleby (together with her playing and indeed her acting) were often simply inspired. It is a tribute to the production that the largest laugh of the evening went to Ms Appleby (you go and see why) but I am sure Jerome would have been laughing along with the rest of us. For me, Craig Gilbert’s adaptation caught the essence of the book and his choice of episodes to feature was unerring while his direction kept the pace up throughout with some very clever use of the set to create the river bank in our imaginations. Moreover, some of the more ‘topical’ references gave the piece a contemporary feel, which I think Jerome would have approved of, and I particularly enjoyed the ‘Titanic’ take off and of course that ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ moment.
Nor could I fault the players in the way they portrayed three of my favourite characters. ‘J’ played suitably pompously by Alastair Whatley, Harris bumptiously performed by Tom Hackney and George, ‘laid back and sensitive’ by Christopher Brandon (and what a Tom Cat!). But perhaps their greatest success was getting round the Montmorency problem.
I was also intrigued and in the end pleasantly surprised by how they would deal with probably the weakest part of the book, the ending, which is actually very brief and comes as rather an anti-climax. In the event the way they managed to conclude on an up note was a triumph and it obviously sent the audience out in to the Worthing night surrounded by a friendly glow.
Would I have enjoyed it as much if I hadn’t read the book? Who knows, but this show certainly left me with the wish that I was reading the book once more for the very first time and that I was going to see the Original Theatre Company’s performance again tonight.
Go and see it.
Three Men in a Boat runs until Saturday 20th October.
Tags: Alan Valentine, Alastair Whatley, Christopher Brandon, Connaught Theatre, Craig Gilbert, Giles Thomas, Jerome K. Jerome, Pamela Wiggin, Sue Appleby, The Original Theatre Company, Three Men In A Boat, Tom Hackney, Victoria Spearing, Worthing