Three Men in a Boat Review

Three Men in a Boat – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub


Writer: Jerome K Jerome

Director: Craig Gilbert


It was with a sense of irony, after the recent flooding in the north east, that the Tuesday press night for Three Men in a Boat became a Thursday matinée. But it was well worth the wait.

A very liberal interpretation of the classic book, the performance takes place in the back room of the Elusive Pelican public house. Where Mr Jerome is giving a lecture to members of the Royal Geographical Society, which is actually the theatre audience.

Mr Jerome K Jerome, J to his friends, is brought to life by Alastair Whatley. Trying to bring a sense of decorum to the proceedings he is helped into disorder by friends George (Christopher Brandon) and Harris (Tom Hackney). With all three suffering from various cases of hypochondria the chums decide a holiday rowing down the river will help them all to be well again. The fellows of the Royal Geographical Society are treated to the tale of the river from different points of view of the spiffing boys and Montmorency the dog.

Nelly, the highly talented Sue Appleby, gives a musical accompaniment to the tales of adventure. From the initial version of Row, Row, Row the Boat through to a tango version while J packs is brilliant. The frantic countdown tune for Harris’ attempt to remember what is packed while J and George pose as showgirls is inspired. But the magical ending to the first half of the lecture, with the tin of pineapple, a chorus of Daylight comes and I want to go home and the theme to Chariots of Fire will have you wiping the tears of laughter from your eyes. It is truly hilarious.

Part two has some sadness, with a beautifully haunting lament as the men recount the sad tale of finding a woman’s body in the river. But more comedy comes involving a swan attack, a parody of the immortal scene from Titanic and a tense card game that turns into a spaghetti western with poor Nelly getting shot by Harris’ pipe.

The set is beautiful, looking almost exactly like a country pub. Full use of the props and scenery are used to show off the boat and the scenes from the Thames. And full use of the audience from becoming members of the society to towing the boat upsteam

This production from The Original Theatre Company is performance at its best.