“Three Men in a Boat” is a ‘Bon’ Voyage

The second that Matt Pilipiak blew into his tuning whistle to begin the utterly British “Eton Boating Song” at the Ottawa Fringe Festival Preview Night, I was sold on this show. A stage adaptation of Jerome K. Jerome’s 1889 travelogue Three Men in a Boat, the gentlemen at Pea Green Theatre Group bring you a lively comedy about three British dandies who decide one day to take a journey up the river Thames. Capitalizing on the fact that there really isn’t anything more amusing than watching stuck-up Brits in uncomfortable and awkward situations, you should definitely catch Three Men in a Boat ‘schooner’ rather than later.

The plot is pretty straight forward: three British gents find themselves suffering from extreme ennui and as a result develop an overwhelming  desire to embark on a nautical adventure.  Shoving off with high expectations of what their journey will entail, it soon becomes clear that this trip will not be smooth sailing, literally or figuratively. However, the three friends and their faithful Scottish terrier, Montmorency, overcome the countless obstacles they encounter, and still find time to sing about the “jolly boating weather”.

L-R: Victor Pokinko, Matt Pilipiak, and Scott Garland; photo credit M. Brownell
L-R: Victor Pokinko, Matt Pilipiak, and Scott Garland; photo credit M. Brownell

In all honesty, this show is just plain ‘hullarious’. The cast of three is a strong one, in particular their physicality and vocal work. Let’s start with the accents: each actor carries off the necessary Received Pronunciation in order to allude to the “public school English” these boys would have grown up learning, which is also crucial in understanding the high social status of Jay, Harris, and George (which of course is a key element to the humour of the piece).  Not only that, but we are also treated to some excellent lower class accents as other characters make bit-appearances on their journey.  Finally, these guys can harmonize, and I appreciate the fact that the musical numbers all feel polished and perfected.

The physicality in this show is also notable as these guys are always present and embodied in their personas on stage at all times. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the characters when they reacting in the scenes as their faces communicate a multitude of expressions and feelings.  The blocking conveys a sense of play and the stage is only minimally adorned so that the actors create each scene predominantly using their bodies. Naturally, everything is made even funnier by the fact that the actors are wearing such flam’bouy’ant ensembles.

This show isn’t looking to push any sort of boundaries or ask any deep questions. Three Men in a Boat is a light-hearted comedy that is sure to split a side or two. It runs like a well-oiled machine and features some genuinely funny performances. Another show where you should ‘loch’ down your tickets early (as it consistently sold out its run in Toronto last year), it’s ‘shore’ to be a ‘whale’ of a time.

(Author’s note: I apologize for none of these nautical puns. #sorrynotsorry)

Three Men in a Boat Adapted for stage by Mark Brownell from Jerome K Jerome‘s classic 1889 British travelogue

Directed by Sue Miner

Featuring : Matt Pilipiak, Scott Garland, Victor Pokinko

Playing at Venue 4: Studio Leonard-Beaulne

Show times and ticket info can be found here.

Written by Brie McFarlane

Theatre critic and live performance junkie, Brie is dedicated to covering the Ottawa theatre scene and showcasing the local artists and their work. In founding the New Ottawa Critics she hopes to find/start new conversations between artists, critics, and audiences. Currently Brie is undertaking a Masters of Arts degree in Theatre at the University of Ottawa. She is also a big fan of all things social media. Follow her on Twitter as herself or the New Ottawa Critics account.