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Three Men in a Boat
Published on Sunday, 22 August 2010

2 stars

New Town Theatre (venue website)
5 - 29 Aug (not 16, 23), 5:00pm (6:10pm)
Reviewed by Catherine Meek

The audience started laughing as soon as Rodney Bewes appeared on stage.  Unfortunately the laughs grew thin as, rather than provide us with a performance fitting of his reputation (he was Bob in The Likely Lads in the 1970s), Bewes instead relied on that reputation to ad lib his way through a very shaky, staid and unpolished performance – which did no justice to the story or his name, or the full house either.

I wondered exactly what this show was trying to be; to me, it was neither one-man comedy nor storytelling.  If he had only settled down into an armchair in the study which was his stage set, or even sat by his two-dimensional boat and focussed on telling us Jerome K  Jerome’s classic story – one which requires no embellishment – the result might well have been entertaining.  As it was, he paid tribute neither to the story nor himself as he pranced rather tiredly on stage performing cheap tricks for empty laughs.  He clutched a stuffed dog – a museum toy he pulled to the stage on its wheels; a round disk hung on a post bore a sun on one side and the moon on another, and Bewes made much too much of turning it over according to which bit of the story he was in.

He also appeared surprisingly unsure of his lines.  I imagine this was a comic device, but it didn’t work for me; rather it made the otherwise amusing story – of three fellows and a dog and their antics on a boating trip down the Thames – seem like an exercise in rote recitation.  He made a play of fluffing his words many times, again no doubt for effect, but I thought it was an unwise ploy to make so clear that he was not in charge of the show.  I just didn't feel I was in safe hands, and an hour and five minutes started to drag and got slower and slower so that I thought it might never end.

Perhaps I'm just not in Bewes' target audience, but altogether I found this show very disappointing.  National treasure though he may be, his performance at the Fringe needs to be judged by the standards of the Fringe; and if your average Fringe actor delivered such an unpolished show, it might mark the end of their career.  With sadness, one wonders whether Bewes is reaching the end of his.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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