Based on Jerome K. Jerome’s classic Victorian satire, Three Men in a Boat is a theatrical adaptation by Mark Brownell. Director Sue Miner’s staging, presented by Guild Festival Theatre in their outdoor Greek Theatre at Guildwood Park & Gardens, is quaint and unassuming production.
Despite the lack of any scenery except a couple of chairs, Jack Copland (Harris), Azeem Nathoo (Jay) and Suchiththa Wickremesooriya (George) as three friends boating down the Thames on holiday, provide a fair amount of understated visual spectacle. Dressed in brightly colourful suits and frequently breaking out into harmonies, they’re like a hapless barbershop trio recounting their adventures with intrepid vaudevillian showmanship.
With cherished dog-companion, Montmorency, in tow—represented by a stuffed toy they plop down in various places—all manner of mishaps occur on their episodic journey. The weather is bad, a cumbersome abundance of supplies threatens to cap-size them and a series of distractions result in comic scenarios.
Each of the three offer up distinct and contrasting personalities and have plenty of charm individually and as a threesome, though much of the performance fell a little flat for me. The outdoor venue is certainly ideal, though the staging doesn’t quite own the space properly. The antics are stylish and well-timed, but lacking a certain urgency and momentum and I felt somewhat removed from it all.
Though I can recognize the appeal, the brand of humour itself isn’t quite for me. I expected the shenanigans to get far more intense, but most of the humour is wry observations and commentary. My favourite scenes involved encounters with eccentric strangers; the highlight being an episode involving a German opera singer (portrayed with campy dramatic flair by Wickremesooriya) and poor Jay (Nathoo at his most endearing) trying to ingratiate himself and failing spectacularly. Copland’s portraits of a crypt keeper and several locals with conflicting big fish stories are also a delight.
Overall, this isn’t really my bag, but it has a definite charm I recognize could be greatly appealing to right sensibilities.