WHEN I worked at the Evening News in London, my friend Laine and I used to spend all our spare money on tickets for the National Theatre (at the Old Vic) and then we’d put out all our clothes on the beds in the flat we shared and perform our favourite plays, grabbing the costume for each character as their speech arrived.
I remember it as being hilarious, dangerous, fast paced and highly entertaining.
Now I know we missed our vocation.
The Original Theatre Company is touring the country with Craig Gilbert’s production of Three Men in a Boat, and, with a fine set and lots of props and effects, it does much the same thing that we did in a sparse flat all those years ago.
Based on Jerome K Jerome’s classic comic novel that follows in the footsteps of Dickens’ Pickwick Papers and presages the “slacker” movies by more than a century, it’s the story of three idle young London men who take to the Thames for a jaunt upstream.
The production, starting in the wood-and-memorabila-lined back room of a pub, takes the audience onto the boat and the riverbank, into the towns and villages along the way, and of course into the lodgings of J, the indolent initiator of the expedition.
It’s all framed by the winsome Miss Nelly (Anna Westlake) at the piano, joining in the fun whenever she possibly can.
Tim van Eyken has composed and arranged the music, which ranges from a new folk lament to some witty snatches of Big Film themes.
This is real physical theatre, whisking its audience from nostalgia through participation to wonderment.
Tom Hackney (last seen locally with Devon-based company Creative Cow) bears his bulk lightly as he tumbles, leaps and slides across the stage in the person of the malodorous Harris.
Michael Rouse is in fine voice as George, and David Partridge has just the right commanding presence as J, leader and lazybones.
It’s huge fun for both audience and cast.
If only Laine and I had developed our idea….