Directed by Simon Downing
Starring Giles Shenton (Old Herbaceous & My Dog's Got No Nose)
Following the continuing success of Old Herbaceous, Kick In The Head productions are back with a rip roaring barrel of fun, Three Men in a Boat, with Giles Shenton (Old Herbaceous himself!) playing the part of Jerome K Jerome.
Join Jerome as he recounts the hilarious story of his boating holiday along the magnificent River Thames with his two companions and Montmorency the dog. Come and join in the fun as Giles Shenton expertly takes the helm and pilots you through the ridiculous tale of men behaving badly while messing about in boats!
“George got out his banjo after supper, and wanted to play it, but Harris objected: he said he had got a headache and did not feel strong enough to stand it. George thought the music might do him good—said music often soothed the nerves and took away a headache; and he twanged two or three notes, just to show Harris what it was like.
Harris said he would rather have the headache.”
“There are a few seriously funny books that remain great for all time. Three Men in a Boat is one of these” The Guardian
“Timeless appeal” The Independent
“Pitch-perfect comedy about, well, three men in a boat” The Telegraph
Giles Shenton "creates an instant rapport with the audience, drawing us into his world and making the characters in it so real we feel you have known them forever. " Fringe Review
22 Feb 2019 Phoenix Theatre & Arts Centre, Hants ***SOLD OUT***
23 Feb 2019 Phoenix Theatre & Arts Centre, Hants
1 Mar 2019 Vera Fletcher Hall, Thames Ditton, Surrey
5 Mar 2019 Manor Pavilion Theatre, Sidmouth, Devon ***SOLD OUT***
6 Mar 2019 Cygnet Theatre, Exeter, Devon ***SOLD OUT***
21 Mar 2019 Grantham Guildhall, Grantham, Lincs
22 Mar 2019 Southwold Arts Centre, Suffolk
23 Mar 2019 The Place Theatre, Bedford ***SOLD OUT***
5 April 2019 Angles Theatre, Wisbech, Cambs
20 April 2019 Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, Surrey ***SOLD OUT***
3 May 2019 Brixham Theatre, Brixham, Devon
24 May 2019 Queens Hall Arts Centre, Hexham, Northumberland
25 May 2019 Barn Theatre, Smallhythe Place, Kent ***SOLD OUT***
29 May 2019 Borough Theatre, Abergavenny, Wales
30 May 2019 Hangar Farm Arts Centre, Totton, Hants
6 June 2019 Stable Theatre, Great Comp, Kent ***SOLD OUT***
22 June 2019 Ralph Court Gardens, Herefordshire
26 June 2019 South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell (OA)
30 June 2019 Evesham Festival of Words, Evesham, Worcs
3 July 2019 Seaton Jurassic Amphitheatre, Devon (OA)
4 July 2019 Moorland Garden Hotel, South Devon (OA)
12 July 2019 Sunbury & Shepperton Arts Festival, Surrey
13 July 2019 Miserden Estate, Gloucestershire (OA)
14 July 2019 Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, Suffolk
17 July 2019 Torch Theatre, Milford Haven, Wales ***SELLING FAST***
19 July 2019 Caerau Gardens, North Wales (OA)
20 July 2019 Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens, Anglesey (OA)
28 July 2019 Sussex Prairie Gardens, East Sussex (OA)
31 July 2019 RHS Harlow Carr, North Yorks (OA)
1 Aug 2019 Middlesbrough Theatre, North Yorks
3 Aug 2019 Cliveden House, Berkshire (OA)
9 Aug 2019 Avon Mill, Kingsbridge, Devon
10 Aug 2019 Avon MIll, Kingsbridge, Devon
11 Aug 2019 Burrow Farm Gardens, nr Axminster, Devon (OA)
30 Aug 2019 The Majestic Theatre, Darlington, North Yorks
31 Aug 2019 Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset (OA)
1 Sept 2019 Weald and Downland Museum, Sussex (OA)
4 Sept 2019 Riverhead Theatre, Louth, Lincs
5 Sept 2019 Corn Hall, Diss, Norfolk
11 Sept 2019 Brighton Open Air Theatre, East Sussex (OA)
26 Sept 2019 OSO Arts Centre, Barnes Green, London
28 Sept 2019 Wingfield Barns, Suffolk
4 Oct 2019 Cranleigh Arts Centre, Cranleigh, Surrey
14 Nov 2019 The Hawth, Crawley, West Sussex
20 Nov 2019 The Lights, Andover, Hants
24 Jan 2020 The Players Theatre, Thame, Oxon
29 Feb 2020 The Sarah Thorne Theatre, Broadstairs, Kent
(OA) = Open Air Performance
"Bordon’s Phoenix Theatre was packed for the opening night of Three Men in a Boat, adapted by Simon Downing and Giles Shenton and directed as a one-hander by Downing and starring the inimitable Shenton, who so enchanted previous audiences with his portrayal of the ancient and endearing gardener in Old Herbaceous. To those who wondered if the same team could live up to that earlier success, the answer was an emphatic yes.
Skilfully distilled from the 30,000-plus words of Jerome K. Jerome’s comic masterpiece into 95 minutes of pure delight, the story follows the fortunes and misadventures of the author J, his two companions George and Harris, and his dog Montmorency on their accident-prone boating holiday on the Thames. The scene is set in J’s London flat, cluttered with fishing and rowing paraphernalia, in which all the action conjured up in the narration takes place. Giles Shenton’s talent is not only in delivering every word faultlessly as he holds the rapt attention of the audience, but in morphing imperceptibly from the misguidedly self-assured character of J to that of the work-shy and lethargic George or the boisterous and greedy Harris, and imaginatively painting, with subtle gesture and expression, the shifting surroundings as the calamitous river excursion unfolds. It is essentially a series of rambling anecdotes with here a wistful reminiscence, there a sentimental reflection, but everywhere a succession of hilarious mishaps and ludicrous adversities, told with a knowing twinkle, a resigned acceptance of the inevitability of disaster, or with a hearty laugh.
Among the first of the many highlights was J’s anxiety on discovering that the only ailment from which he didn’t suffer was housemaid’s knee. Then there was much contradiction and confusion over trains and platforms at Waterloo, as still bedevils many a South Western Railway traveller. There followed farcical accounts of battles with tangled tow-lines that had a life of their own and with recalcitrant hoops for holding up the boat’s canvas cover that fought like demons against being forced into the holes provided for them. Food was a source of much anticipation, frustration and fury, notably in the violent but ultimately unsuccessful assault on a tin of pineapple when the tin-opener couldn’t be found. Most memorable of all was the making of an Irish stew, in which ‘nothing was wasted’ except a dead water rat which Montmorency helpfully, but vainly, offered as an ingredient. And to finish, there was Harris’s comic song from H.M.S Pinafore or perhaps Trial by Jury – he was as uncertain of the title as he was of the words. These were laugh-out-loud moments, but there were also subtler touches, such as a frying pan doubling as a banjo, the occasional well-judged ad-lib to the audience, much mopping of the brow and regular swigs from two similar but quite different bottles of wine. It was a master class in confidence, stagecraft and delivery.
Deservedly prolonged applause brought the performance to an end before the production set off on its twelve-month tour to 44 other venues from Devon to Northumberland, Anglesey to Kent, London to Norfolk and widely scattered places in between. To judge by this first outing at the Phoenix Theatre, it seems assured of an enthusiastic countrywide reception."
" ... there is nothing- absolutely nothing- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.", so says "Ratty", in Kenneth Graham's classic, " The Wind in the Willows". Last night in Thames Ditton, we witnessed just that, with Kick in the Head's inspired new production of " Three Men in a Boat", starring one man...the amazing, energetic & totally engaging Giles Shenton. We meet Jerome K. Jerome, incarnated by Giles...but, by the end of the evening, we also feel we know his two travelling companions, George and Harris, although we never actually see them on stage...(and also Montmorency, the dog), due to Shenton's immense and versatile stage presence. It's a brave thing to "remodel" such a classic, but Simon Downing's clever adaptation of the much-loved story succeeds on every level, including the very atmospheric and historically accurate set and props.
Three friends, feeling the need for some R & R, discard one original suggestion of a sea trip for a gentler river trip, exploring the tranquil Thames.
The original book was written in 1889, but the account of their somewhat fraught rail journey to reach Kingston upon Thames, their embarcation point, shows us that remarkably little has changed and the railway companies were playing "musical platforms " with their customers even then! Provisions and the mysteries of what to bring and how to cook it, played a big, authentic & amusing part in this very male, yet very comfortable saga. The idea of camping on the bank is discarded and hilarious descriptions of coping in a floating hotel are the nearest thing to "audio slapstick" I've ever heard, culminating in the sublime comedy of opening a tin, when you've forgotten the tin opener. The descriptions of these activities and discussions give us further insight into all the characters through the only one we actually meet, including Jerome's wife Hetty, who we also never meet and is cast in the vein of more modern versions, such as the absent Mrs Mainwaring in " Dad's army", or perhaps " her indoors" in "Minder", which all adds to the rather "clubbable" atmosphere.
The play echoes the rather chauvinistic cusp of the 19th/ 20th century and, like the trip itself, gives us the feeling of the rather gender segregated life which existed then, but very gently and with a whimsical touch. It almost feels comforting.
Throughout the trip, in addition to the practicalities of life aboard, we're treated to a fascinating and factual glimpse of the actual historic sites en route, with reference to maps on the wall, charting the Thames. Anyone aware of Giles Shenton's recent professional history might have been amused to hear " Jerome K Jerome" utter the immortal words" I've often thought that I should like to live at Hampton Court"...a near thing, as it turns out!
In the end, our intrepid trio, frustrated by the lack of anywhere decent for dinner, after their culinary mishaps, abandon the boat in favour of the train to return to London to their favourite hostelry. There, we are regaled by a song or two from Jerome K Jerome, with Giles Shenton in good voice, imitating Harris' own Gilbert & Sullivan performance, where he cannot decide whether he is singing something from "HMS Pinafore" or "Trial by Jury..." Shenton, who knows the river well himself, collaborated with the adaptation and wanted the whole play to be focussed on the tranquil waters of the Thames, in the upper reaches and so it was. The gentle waters become a metaphor for a gentler era. It is not often that you come out of a theatrical performance feeling like you've been sharing happy and hilarious times, safe from a cruel world & wrapped in a warm blanket.
The toast at the hostelry at the end is " to three men well out of a boat"...and in it too, say I !
This production follows Kick in the Head's astounding successes with "Old Herbaceous" and "Fagin", also starring Giles Shenton. The 2019/2020 tour combines " Three Men in Boat" with these. For performance dates and details, countrywide, see www.kickinthehead.co.uk not to be missed!
Three Men in a Boat - with Giles Shenton as Jerome K Jerome