PURISTS may be a little surprised that this production of Three Men in a Boat ends with the cast throwing some shapes in a disco number, but the finale certainly reflects the gusto with which the Original Theatre Company attack Jerome K Jerome’s well-loved book.
Adapted for the stage by the play’s director Craig Gilbert, this version of the story takes place at the Elusive Pelican pub where the protagonists Harris (Tom Hackney), George (Christopher Brandon) and J (Alastair Whatley) are giving a speech to the Royal Geographical Society (aka the audience).
The trio – accompanied by pianist Nelly (Sue Appleby) – then launch into a colourful re-enactment of their journey down the river, complete with a faithful canine companion, a boat made of chairs, an advertising board and a suitcase, a Jaws-style attack by swans and a cheeky Titanic tribute.
Harris is a buffoonish character who smuggles cheese in his blazer pocket and is attacked by a posse of swans, George is the smoothest, and laziest, of the trio while J is earnest and easily exasperated (luckily the actor has a particularly effective exasperated expression up his sleeve).
Marrying the timeless humour of Jerome K Jerome’s original novel with plenty of contemporary references – and lots of poking fun at the ‘magic of the theatre’ – this version of Three Men in a Boat is a bit of a treat.
The three actors cavort and caper about the stage, throwing accents, costumes, scrapping and even the previously mentioned disco dancing into the mix – making messing about the river look plenty of fun.
There is also an impressive set designed by Victoria Spearing (a huge improvement on some of the rather lacklustre sets appearing on Eastbourne stages recently).
Three Men in a Boat is on until September 8, with evening performances at 7.45pm and Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm.
Tickets cost from £13.50-£18, call 412000.