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A beloved trio returns to Scarborough’s Guild Park in Three Men on a Bike

guild festival theatre iPhoto caption: Photo courtesy of Guild Festival Theatre.
/By / Jul 10, 2024

This summer, don your derby, dust off your velocipede, and take a jaunt to Guild Park. Classic comedy awaits you.

Beginning July 18, Guild Festival Theatre will present Three Men on a Bike outdoors in Scarborough’s Guild Park. Audiences who enjoyed Three Men in a Boat, Guild Festival’s previous summer production, will be delighted to learn that Three Men on a Bike is a sequel created by the same playwright (Mark Brownell) and director (Sue Miner), and starring the same cast (Jack Copland, Azeem Nathoo, and Suchiththa Wickremesooriya). Written in 2014 and 2019 respectively, both Boat and Bike are adaptations of novels by the Victorian humorist Jerome K. Jerome.

“The show we did last year [was about] three men who decide to get out of town and take a trip together, but they have no idea how to row a boat or anything about sailing, so shenanigans ensue,” said Nathoo in an interview. He plays Jay, one of the titular three men. In this summer’s production, Jay and his friends George and Harris have “given themselves a couple of years to rest and forget about their ordeal from the time before,” Nathoo explained, “and now they decide to go on a bike trip to Germany.” Shenanigans, again, ensue. 

Performing on the bare stage of Guild Park’s Greek Theatre, the intrepid cast has to create said shenanigans with only a few props and the power of physical comedy. “In the last show we had to recreate the sense of being on a boat, and this year we have to do the same with the bike — armed with only a stool and a chair,” Nathoo explained. 

Nathoo and his cast mates won’t be entirely alone onstage. They’ll be joined by an audience favourite from last year’s show, a stuffed animal who will play the role of Montmorency, Jay, George, and Harris’s beloved pet.

“He’s a little stuffed dog,” said Miner, who joined Nathoo to chat about the production. “But he’s as much part of the characters’ story as anybody. In Three Men on a Boat he was at the front of the boat, going through the whole thing. 

“He’s a big part of our process. We all love him — maybe too much,” joked Miner. 

For Nathoo and his fellow actors, part of the fun is “having to negotiate the elements” in Guild Park, “like a loud lawn mower, or the wedding venue that’s not too far away; and sometimes you have rabbits running across the stage.” Although occasionally the outdoor surroundings can be challenging, at the end of the day, said Nathoo, “It just really adds to the texture of the process.”

At the time of the interview, the creative team was a little over one week into rehearsals. “It’s been a real adventure so far,” said Nathoo. “We all worked together last year as well. That’s tremendously helpful in the sense that we all know our characters, and we’re able to hit the ground running a little sooner than last time.”

The cast is also putting the pedal to the metal to learn a huge amount of music. “All the singing is live,” said Miner. The production’s music director and arranger, J. Rigzin Tute, has reimagined a collection of tunes from Jerome K. Jerome’s time — including 19th-century favourites like “Velocipede Jimmy” — to feel “current and really fun,” Miner added.

Miner and playwright Mark Brownell have loved Jerome K. Jerome’s stories for years. In 2014, they premiered their adaptation of Three Men in a Boat as part of that year’sToronto Fringe Festival. A remount of that production later toured to India There, the team “learned that there are people there who are huge fans of [Three Men in a Boat,]” said Miner, “because that was the book that a lot of people used to learn English. People knew the text really, really well.”

For Miner, experiences like this highlight the wide appeal of Three Men on a Bike’s hapless characters. “What have I personally got to do with these guys?” Miner asked herself. “Nothing, and yet I love them and I love their journey. They just touch people to come along for the ride. That’s part of the draw for me. They [screw up] for us so we don’t have to. We can just sit and enjoy and laugh at their foibles. Anything that brings us all back to humanity is my hero right now.”

It’s the bond between George, Jay, and Harris that Miner finds particularly touching. “There’s something really genuine about the friendship of these three that’s inspiring,” she explained. “Just because they might not agree on something doesn’t mean that they have to stop the world.”

Does Miner believe there’s a particular audience for the piece?

“The particular audience is everybody,” said Miner. “I want them to take away that, as long as we are kind and curious, and care for each other, we’ll be OK.”

 Three Men on a Bike runs from July 18 to August 4 at the Greek Theatre in Guild Park. You can purchase tickets here

Nathaniel Hanula-James

Nathaniel Hanula-James

Nathaniel Hanula-James is a multidisciplinary theatre artist who has worked across Canada as a dramaturg, playwright, performer, and administrator.



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