Review: Canoeing for Beginners

Posted on 10 February 2015
By Ian D Hall
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Well paced farce, the element of truthful distortion, a director who gives the actors so much room to develop their characters and a story that at times is close to being beautifully poetic, Canoeing for Beginners, running at The Liverpool Royal Court until February 28th, leaves no stone unturned in its supply of comedy gold.

When you’re up a certain creek without a certain instrument, the only thing to do is buy a canoe and paddle against the tide. It might not get you fit, it won’t even get you thought of as an Olympic hopeful. What it will do though, with no uncertainty in mind, is lay the foundations for comedy gold in Mike Yeaman’s tremendous play.

Beforehand, the air in the Royal Court is thick with expectation at the prospect of one of Liverpool’s favourite acting sons, John McArdle, taking the stage for the first time here at The Royal Court. Added to which is the prospect of it being directed by one of the biggest names around in Cal McCrystal, whose work on the recent smash hit film, Paddington, has been received with world acclaim. Seeing the work of these two masters alone makes the prospect of Canoeing for Beginners too much of a lure to miss, but there is so much more to enjoy.

With Stephen Fletcher, thrust into the part within a week of the production opening, performing the role of Andy the suspicious copper with sheer skill, and Angela Simms showing just how much of an immense talent she has raging in her and the sensational Pauline Fleming giving one of the performances of her life as the brains behind the ensuing scandal, the production has everything you could wish for.

Throughout the jokes are unforgivingly quick, set up well in advance and carried by the entire cast with all of the grace and the style of a gazelle finding out that its future lays in stand-up not being chased by lions in the afternoon sun.

Indeed, when merely chipping away at the second month of 2015, to give any play the thought of being one of the comedies of the year is perhaps to sit in the pit of folly and watch it play with sand in quiet unrepentant repose. However, Canoeing for Beginners really does live up to the high expectation and will be certainly amongst the year’s Shows Not To Have Missed list.

Canoeing for Beginners
Liverpool Royal Court Theatre
January 30 – February 28
Director: Cal McCrystal
Producer: Royal Court Theatre
Cast: John McArdle, Pauline Fleming, Stephen Fletcher, Angela Simms, Michael Ledwich, Harry Katsari
Rating: ****