STAGE REVIEW: Rough Crossing - at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Tuesday, March 5 to Saturday, March 9, 2019.

THERE’S the odd moment or two when you could be forgiven for wondering what’s the point and why did the ship on which this comedy is set even bother to set sail?

The script, much like the SS Italian Castle, flounders around on the high seas in a storm, being both daft and slightly demeaning of the audience.

Not even the revered and much venerated playwright Tom Stoppard can deliver perfection all of the time, depending on which side of the net you wish to be, and a game and enthusiastic cast do their best with what is, in effect, a double script of a bad story within a story.

Stoppard's show is set on a trans-Atlantic liner in the early 1930s - all art deco, high fashion and full of class and cut glass accents.

Colin Richmond’s set design neatly floats alongside the cabins on view. They’re all first class!

As for the play it is generally a free reworking of Ferenc Molnár's 1920s Play at the Castle, and broadly features group of theatrical toffs such as a musical playwriting partnership - Turai and Gal, played with style and pizazz by John Partridge and Matthew Cottle, who are tasked with knocking their new offering into shape before its Broadway premiere.

There’s just a couple of problems - one is perhaps tiny, maybe even tedious - of a little love triangle; the other - the original script is heading for the rocks!

The love triangle centres around the composer's fiancee Natasha (Issy Van Randwyck), who is also the leading lady, but she appears to be lighting the blue touchpaper of her interest in an ageing lothario Ivor (Simon Sutton), who is also the leading man.

The writing duo suddenly need to persuade Adam (Rob Ostlere), the composer, he has overheard a script rehearsal and not an amorous tete-a-tete.

If they can provide a plausible explanation they just might get their offering completed.

The show is reworked and revived via continual arrivals-cum-interruptions from Charlie Stemp’s occasionally irritating cabin steward Dvornichek, a man with a penchant for copious amounts of brandy. A touch too many and in all reality he ought to have been comatose in his cabin. It adds a whole new dimension to the message in a bottle - but Stemp was still exemplary.

Partridge takes artistic licence as far as he can with an air of effeminacy, while the likeable Cottle’s whole demeanour was amusing. Unfortunately others in the cast could have done with more projection and less shouting.

Director Rachel Kavanaugh, who has a fine reputation from her work with the RSC, strives hard to make it all meaningful but thrashing legs and body tumbles at the height of the storm at sea prove as rough as the crossing.

Overall it doesn’t really offer great entertainment. Just mildly enjoyable - but then only so much can be done with this generally nonsensical script.