REVIEW: Three Men in a Boat, Connaught Theatre, Worthing

Alastair Whatley as J, Tom Hackney as Harris and Christopher Brandon as George
Alastair Whatley as J, Tom Hackney as Harris and Christopher Brandon as George
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Three Men in a Boat and not a boat in sight -- not a real one anyway.

Instead, the drama, at the Connaught Theatre in Worthing last week, was set entirely in The Elusive Pelican pub in 1898.

I suppose it came as a surprise because the last time I saw Jerome K. Jerome’s work staged, it was set entirely in a boat and was done as a monogue.

At the Connaught, all three men were portrayed, with Tom Hackney as Harris, Christopher Brandon as George and Alastair Whatley as J.

Things got exciting when the trio quickly brought together the pub A-board, a table, suitcase, two chairs and a stool to make a very respectable representation of the boat. This worked well at first but as the play developed, the idea of a boat diminished and with the three scattered across the stage, the feel of a boat trip down the Thames was all but lost.

Craig Gilbert’s adaptation, his first full-length play, sets the trio in a pub for a talk to a group (the audience) and the tale is told as if it is being presented to a society.

He draws in more modern references, including a very funny doff of the cap to James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic, but retains the feel of the late Victorian piece, a timeless classic still enjoyed to this day.

The stage direction was exacting, creating some excellent set pieces that had the audience in hysterics, particularly over the opening of a tin of pineapple without the aid of a tin opener.

They all worked well together and, in the main, stayed true to the spirit of the book.