top of page

'Three Men in a Boat' by Jerome K Jerome and reimagined by Mark Brownell

Now onstage at Guild Festival Theatre, 201 Guildwood Parkway, Scarborough

Now onstage at Guild Festival Theatre, 201 Guildwood Parkway, Scarborough

Dave Rabjohn

The premiere of Mark Brownwell’s re-creation of the original 1889 farce by Jerome K. Jerome is now playing at the dramatic “Greek Theatre” at the Guildwood Park in Scarborough, Ontario. Unapologetic full-bore schadenfreude is the rule of the day. A fine cast lets us laugh at misfortunes, but somehow we are also endeared with their antics.

The production style is very austere with mime in lieu of props and movement suggesting place and scenery. The life force of this play then is dependent on the skill of the three cast members and, for the most part, they deliver.

The three young, naïve “city” boys plan to get away from their comfortable lives to seek their adventurous souls. They clownishly plan a trip down the Thames in a small boat with large luggage. Intending to leave at a lively 6 am, they manage to get away by 10. Misadventures include stumbling through a maze of hedges, outdoor camping without the skills, fighting with a tin of pineapple, and the ever-requisite “fish story.” Finally soaked through from unrelenting rain, our boys escape to more familiar comforts of inns and dining rooms.

The mentioned austerity is tempered by the costumes – gaudy primary colours remind us of a Mary Poppins adventure through a chalk picture. The clownish suits give zest to the characters while also underlining their foolish credulity.

Jay is played with manic gullibility by Azeem Nathoo. Even as a hypochondriac, Jay is delighted to act as leader (even without the skills.) He is overly verbose and considers himself poetic. Some hesitation with a few lines tended to derail the important rhythm this play depends on.

Harris, played by Jack Copland, is, again, naïve but thoroughly optimistic and positive. He is the most agile of the cast playing a variety of comic accents as a hilarious train supervisor and a variety of English fops in the “fish story.” His comic artistry is best established in a send-up of various Gilbert and Sullivan numbers that barely get off the ground.

George, played by Suchiththa Wickremesooriya, is equally adept at a variety of accents. A highlight is the rendition of a grave and very droll German opera singer angered by an audience of Philistines.

As mentioned, movement and tableaux create both scene and humour. Becoming lost in the maze is articulated by mincing footsteps and hilarious side-stepping. Putting up a mimed tent looked like a spirited wrestling match. A near drowning of the boat was a balletic tour de force which did not require an actual boat.

Barbershop harmonies were generally a fine supplement to the action. Floor mikes instead of individual mikes were an odd option. The sound was sometimes inconsistent and a buzzy feedback from a stage right speaker lost some audience focus.

If you have ever seen unprepared artless canoeists filling a sixteen-footer with three 24s and a backyard barb-b-que (I have), you understand our three guileless characters. It is fun to absorb their simple-mindedness and a riot to experience their Griswold-like adventures.

‘Three Men in a Boat’ by Mark Brownwell/Jerome K. Jerome

Performers: Suchihtha Wickremesooriya, Azeem Nathoo, Jack Copland
Director: Sue Miner
Production Designer: Ina Kerklaan.

Playing through: August 13, 2023.


Abstract Building
Black on Transparent_edited.png
bottom of page