In this play, the imperturbable optimism and hilarious superficiality of Victorian England go boating on the Thames in the forms of Jay (Matt Pilpiak), George (Victor Pokinko), and Harris (Scott Garland) – to say nothing of the dog.
The most striking element of this production is the relentless pace at which it pulls laughter from the audience and runs downstream toward Oxford. Relying on physical comedy as much as the silliness rooted in the original text, these three are the best-dressed singing dandies on the river. The minimal set allows for maximum manipulation, and creates a great opportunity for the actors to use their whole bodies to flow seamlessly from scene to scene along the river. They rise to the occasion like the tide: with strength that appears effortless. I really can’t applaud these three performances highly enough.
This piece is so polished, with an ensemble that work so well together, who can actually sing, and who perform with such gusto and enthusiasm, that it becomes difficult to talk about. It is a lighthearted immersion into tongue-barely-in-cheek silliness that only a posh Brit could write, brought to vivid life in all of its absurdity by three talented actors.
I really had fun at this performance, but there was something disquieting about the persistent lightheartedness and superficiality, despite how well realized these elements were. The story itself leaves me wanting more insight into the darker hints of the story that Jay’s account flows straight past: his egotistical clashes with George, Harris’ drinking, the marked division of classes on the river all remain hidden beneath the surface of the narrator’s Victorian decorum. This is a fault that can only be ascribed to the text itself, which is perhaps beginning to show its age for all the entertainment it provides.
This show is definitely worth weighing anchor and heading over to campus for. Bring your tuning whistle, your fox terrier, a few slices of your favourite English cheddar, and prepare to be entertained. I’d also suggest you float on by the box office or Fringe website for advanced tickets, since Studio Léonard-Beaulne only has enough life vests for a limited crowd.