A LOT of water has run under the bridge since the publication of Three Men in a Boat – 125-years worth to be precise.

And so I was intrigued to see how Jerome K Jerome’s ripping yarn of youthful friendship and mischief would transport to the Nuffield stage.

The play is fairly true to the book in that it follows the tale of three friends – J, Harris and George plus their faithful canine companion Montgomery as they attempt to escape the stresses of city life by travelling half the length of the Thames.

But this is a quite extraordinary stage adaptation by Craig Gilbert in that it is set in the fixed setting of a pub – with a working on stage bar, and it has a strong music hall theme throughout!

This manifests itself in the introduction of a new character – the pianist Nellie, a repertoire of music hall tunes and some splendid music hall comedy!

While the storyline is basic and hardly dramatic as we join the workshy trio on their ‘rejuvenating’ journey of exploration their behaviour has us in stitches as they descend into childish chaos.

Given that the story takes in 50 characters – with just four actors (Tom Hackney, Paul Westwood, Alastair Whatley and the silent Anna Westlake), there is some highly amusing switching between roles.

But it is the physical comedy – and the incredible effort it takes by these inspired super-energised performers-, from start to finish that impressed and amused me most.

As the gentle humour and timeless innuendo steers a steady course throughout, the physical comedy – by way of stark contrast, leaps and tumbles, quite literally, descending into theatrical anarchy!

The countless classic comedy sequences – such as the face-washing in the mirror routine, the slowmotion Chariots of Fire, the battle to open the gloriously exotic tin of pineapple, the drinking of tea in unison – even the magician sawing the assistant in half sketch, were unforgettable . . . I was still laughing all the way home.