Three Men In A Boat, by Jerome K Jerome, adapted by Craig Gilbert, Original Theatre Company, New Wolsey Theatre, until October 25

Alastair Whatley, Tom Hackney, Paul Westwood, in Three Men In A Boat at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipsw

Alastair Whatley, Tom Hackney, Paul Westwood, in Three Men In A Boat at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Craig Gilbert’s adaptation of Jerome K Jerome’s classic comedic novel is a pleasant, if mad cap, way of spending an evening at the theatre. What could go wrong?

Three high spirited and argumentative young blades meet at The Elusive Pelican public house in 1898 and after some laborious preamble decide to embark on a boating holiday on the river Thames. J (Jerome himself), Harris and George (Alastair Whatley, Tom Hackney and Paul Westwood respectively) are admirably supported by the Pelican’s pianist Nelly, played by Anna Westlake who proved that less is more. She did not have a single speaking line but her performance was a delight and ‘Nelly’ was instrumental in the funniest incident of the night.

The piece was littered with charming and often amazing cameos which involved a high degree of stage physicality at which Paul Westwood excelled. At times his body seemed to be made of rubber and suited the Vaudeville theme of humour that nicely reflected the contemporary critics who branded Jerome’s ‘new’ comedy as vulgar while appealing only to those who dropped their aitches.

Victoria Spearing’s terrific set included a toy Montmorency, the entirely fictional fox terrier that accompanied the three men on their ill-fated adventures. As alluded to by Harris, Jerome developed Montmorency in the belief that the inner consciousness of a 19th century Englishman ‘contains an element of the dog’.

Unfortunately the play descended more than once into pantomime by the use of topical panto jokes and audience participation. It was both unnecessary and gratuitous and anyway often fell flat especially in Act 1. The only advantage of the employment of well-known film scores was that it gave the cast a wonderful opportunity to show their slow-motion skills at which they all excelled.

Carol Twinch

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