Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

three men

 Ian Toulouse  as Harris, Ellie Ball  as J and Alex Howell as George burst into song

Three Men in a Boat

Mint Theatre Society

Stonnall Village Hall


The Mint Theatre Society is a small travelling theatre company and as such, their productions have to literally pack up into the back of a van.

There should be no expectation of large elaborate sets, lavish costumes and truck loads of technical gadgetry. Whilst performing in village halls and social clubs, Mint offer great performance without the frills and their production of Three Men in a Boat at Stonnall Village Hall is no exception.

Audience seating is informal, not traditional theatre style. Instead the audience sit around small tables, laid with table cloths and vases of fresh flowers, with about half a dozen chairs around each table. The venue has a lot of large windows and despite being curtained, the room doesn’t really darken as the lights go down. This not only means that the audience may not be fully focused on the stage action, but the actors have the added pressure of being able to see the audience and their reactions, giving the possibility of distraction on both sides.

This is rapidly becoming Mint’s unique selling point. They are mastering the use of alternative venues and the fringe-like quality of their productions is now somewhat of a trademark. With nowhere to hide, their performances have to be spot on.

Adapted from Jerome K. Jerome’s well known novel by Jack Babb, the script light heartedly tells the story of three self proclaimed ‘overworked’ friends (and Montmorency the dog) as they boat up the Thames encountering a string of disasters. Eventually, after being thwarted by the weather, they prematurely abandon their expedition at Oxford.

The stage is set with three dining chairs, a stool and a couple of blankets draped across what appear to be tables. There are two large arras at the back of the stage leaving the audience to consider what lies behind the arras! In front and to both sides of the stage are two screens (one of which is beautifully manufactured from three rustic, old doors).

Costumes give a nod to the period and are suitable to the type of production, although the addition of waistcoats and cufflinks may have added to the appropriateness and believability. Props were generally well chosen, other than a very shiny and extremely modern sauté pan.

The minimal furnishings on stage are cleverly and unobtrusively moved around by the cast to suggest the various settings of the parlour, the pub, the riverside and the boat itself.

The strong cast is creatively and well directed by Liz Daly. Ellie Ball as Jerome is exceptional; she never falters and captures the masculine mannerisms and movements beautifully. Alex Howell as George is wonderfully foppish, with his well groomed, waxed moustache and hardly a hair of his long locks out of place (except when his hairbrush has been packed ready for the boat trip), he portrays his character with finesse. Ian Toulouse does a fine job of capturing Harris’s skill of ‘being busy doing nothing’ and confidently leads the audience in a rousing sing-a-long of ‘Two Lovely Black Eyes’.

David Daly provides much of the humour with his perfectly timed sound effects and his interpretation of the numerous characters that the pals encounter along their journey. It is Daly’s extremely fast costume changes that reveal the necessity of the two screens positioned front of stage. With his high energy and comic timing David Daly is somewhat of a scene stealer. It would of course be quite wrong ‘to say nothing of the dog’; keep an eye open and see if you can spot Montmorency as he runs amok in the audience after an incident with a hot kettle!

This quirky, entertaining production is well worth taking a punt on.

Further performances on 20th and 21st July at Aldridge Social Club

Rosemary Manjunath


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