Up the Mersey without a paddle
Director Cal McCrystal has previously shown his skills in physical comedy in ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ and this comes to the fore in this play, with a snarling dog, scenes of drunken revelry, numerous sliding under beds and, most spectacularly, a hurricane for the finale with sound and light effects to match.
Pauline Fleming was magnificent as Beryl, the wife behind a plan to retire to sunnier climes by pretending her husband has drowned in a canoe off Crosby beach and so is claiming three hundred grand on his life insurance.
In Act One, she is a dowdy middle-aged woman, hair in a granny bun, frantically fighting off the attentions of DI Watts, played by Elvis look-alike Stephen Fletcher, the doubting police inspector investigating the claim.
His suspicions are not surprising when husband, Frank (veteran Liverpool actor, John McCardle, on his Royal Court debut) is dashing in and out of the house (too cold in the shed) trying to avoid him.
Act two is set in sunny Cuba and Pauline reappears looking 20 years younger with long hair and wearing a bikini bringing cheers from those in the stalls.
The trouble is, they haven’t told their children, Carol (Angela Simms) and Keith (Michael Ledwich) who go berserk at the news when arrive at Cuba and find their dead Dad there.
Of course, Watt is there too and a crazy Cuban policeman (Harry Katsari), shrieking in an unintelligible accent, and the action moves into fast forward with Keith and Simm half naked in a drunken stupor, Carol ranting like a banshee from Bootle and finally the hurricane bringing everything to a close.
What gave the play its appeal, despite the farcical nature of the plot, was the professionalism and exuberance of the actors, all of whom were obviously having a great time, even including the audience in the action as well.
‘Canoeing for Beginners’ will take its place among the fast growing number of Scouse comedies that deserve a genre all of their own.