‘Neville's Island’ by Tim Firth
Directed by: Richard Parish
Design by: David Hemsley-Brown
Lighting by: Nigel Greenaway
Sound by: Alex Lyon
Cast: Graham Collier, David Hemsley-Brown, Nick Lund and David Webb
For a direct link to the GALLERY of PHOTOGRAPHS of this production CLICK - : Neville's Island
Four out-of-condition, middle-aged businessmen sent off on a team-building exercise in the Lake District succeed in being the first people ever to get shipwrecked on an island on Derwentwater! Bound in by fog, menaced by the wildlife and cut off from the world, this perfunctory middle-class exercise turns into a carnival of recrimination, French cricket and sausages. What should have been a bonding process for Gordon, Angus, Roy and Neville turns into a muddy, bloody fight for survival.
Tim Firth’s ‘comedy in thick fog’ was originally produced by Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough in 1992 and then enjoyed a major revival at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2013.
REVIEW OF ‘NEVILLE'S ISLAND’ BY ROGER MOODY
Richard Parish is a determined fellow! As the director of ‘Neville’s Island’ he knew this reviewer hadn’t particularly enjoyed the West End version twenty years ago; he knew the chance of seeing the ‘comedy in thick fog’ at Chichester last year had been passed on; and he knew that there was a certain reluctance to see his version at Guildford’s Mill Studio.
But determination paid off. Humble pie has been digested – which is more than you can say for the water-logged pizza that features in the play – and another excellent offering from The Lighted Fools Theatre Company.
Tim Firth wrote the pay, as he did ‘Calendar Girls’ and there is almost as much nudity with our luckless male characters as there is for the ‘girls’!
Four middle managers on a bonding away-weekend end up marooned on an island in Derwentwater and who comes out best is in the eyes of the audience!
Our managers – how they ever came to be middle managers, let alone managers at all, only the author will know! – are wonderfully played by Lighted Fools stalwarts.
David Hemsley-Brown is Neville for whom there is always light at the end of the tunnel, even if his map-reading as team-leader left them in this awful island predicament. A thoughtfully controlled performance of the wimpish Neville – until he erupts at the end with the thoroughly objectionable bully, Gordon.
And the bully – who else but David Webb could have brought this character so masterfully to the stage? David, an award-winning actor, never fails to impress with his performances.
If Neville is wimpish, Angus, played feelingly by Graham Collier, is a nerd. When, in its hour of need, the team wants survival gear, Angus delivers too late and Graham’s sausage routine quite rightly earned an extra round of applause.
But perhaps the most difficult portrayal of any of the four characters was that by Nick Lund as religious Roy. Quietly and cleverly Nick elicits sympathy for the character, something in short supply for the other three. He deals well with the somewhat weak-ending of the play and even better when he has to sing!
Back to David Hemsley-Brown and as if acting were not enough, his island set design with real water and real trees constructed by, yes you’ve guessed it, was as good as any professional offering.
And that sums it all up. The theatre-goer next to me, leading the belly-laughs throughout, simply would not accept this was not a professional performance we were watching.
Finally, I realise why I had misgivings about the Island all those years ago. The man I went with was, and still is, a huge cynic and coloured my judgement. Not good for a critic but at least I now know he would have fared terribly on ‘Neville’s Island’!
SURREY ADVERTISER REVIEW OF ‘NEVILLE'S ISLAND’ BY JANICE WINDLE
The Mill Studio’s intimate space turned out to be a perfect home for this four-man play about castaways on a tiny foggy island in winter in the middle of Derwentwater.
It didn’t matter that the fog could not be manifested (on the previous night it had apparently precipitated a full-sale fire alarm and evacuation of the building), Tim Firth’s excellent creation of characters was complemented by the acting skills of the Lighted Fools, a company that is amateur in name only.
From the start we were laughing as these middle-aged, middle-class middle managers (as Angus the finance manager moans) struggle to deal with the physical problems and the ever more challenging psychological problems of the ‘team-building’ exercise that their Salford employers have set up.
Being shipwrecked on a cold desert island with no food or shelter is a genuine test of the four men’s co-operation, particularly for Gordon (David Webb), self-made man, individualist and bully.
He reluctantly bears the responsibility for having lost the team’s provisions of food in the lake.
Team-leader Neville, the marketing manager (David Hemsley-Brown), is an instinctive peace-maker.
But he is faced with ever more pressure to protect the team as Gordon verbally attacks his colleagues – the repressed, socially inept Angus (Graham Collier) and the fragile Christian, Roy (Nick Lund), who is intent only on bird-watching and praying, it seems.
Angus’ rucksack is an absolute cornucopia of everything they might need – except food.
There are camping gadgets, cooking utensils, a self-lighting stove (which he only thinks to reveal after hours of boy-scout fire-lighting technique have failed) and a large knife that we guess will play a decisive part in the play’s dénouement.
He even carries a flare – but there’s a firework display on the Derwent shore.
Their troubled sleep is disturbed by the lights of the ferry – but the karaoke on board drowns out their cries for help. As the old saying goes, everything in their favour is against them.
Suspense mounts in the second half as these disparate characters interact ever more desperately with each other and their unfamiliar environment.
The humour is wonderful and the dénouement is unexpected and yet totally in tune with the tragi-comic tone of the rest of the play. I’ll give away no more.
Go and see the Lighted Fools wherever they present Neville’s Island.
The professionals at The Duke of York’s Theatre, where it is still playing in London, can do no better than this.
COMMENTS FROM OUR AUDIENCE ON ‘NEVILLE'S ISLAND’
Thoroughly enjoyed the play
My goodness what a lot of business they all had and how beautifully carried out
Loved it and it didn't seem like 2hours
Loved the play!! I've been looking forward to a good laugh for ages and boy, did I laugh!!! It wasn't so much the - sometimes corny- jokes but the relationships between the characters
The set was amazing
Altogether a lovely evening. Thank you!
Just a very quick note to congratulate Lighted Fools on a fantastic performance on opening night. Please send our thanks for a great night out to all the cast and crew
Brilliant, we loved the play, the set, the lighting and the actors
What a wonderful treat, I sat there during the whole performance with a smile on my face. What a wonderful way to spend an evening!
The actors were excellent
Have just returned from watching ‘Neville’s Island’. It really was excellent in every aspect. The four actors perfectly complemented each other and I don’t remember laughing so much for a long time
It must have been good as my wife laughed her way through and stayed awake despite a very heavy week
Good play, well acted, well directed, great set
We enjoyed seeing your production on Friday - it was very funny and a real tour de force as far as the cast was concerned - they deserved medals
The costumes were terrific, including the underpants and the set was marvellous
Please pass on our congratulations to your excellent cast and all others involved in your stupendous production of ‘Neville's Island’ at the Mill Studio yesterday! We thoroughly enjoyed every minute, and haven't laughed so much at the theatre for ages
I was interested to see that there is currently a London production of the play, which was slated if I remember rightly in the reviews in last week's papers. I didn't read them, only 'registered their presence', but it would be interesting to read them now
We couldn't have had a better evening - refreshing, brilliant cast, excellent timing, great set, etc etc
We look forward to future productions by Lighted Fools!
Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed ‘Neville’s Island’ last night. Congratulations to everyone involved
Everyone should feel really proud of this one. It was funny when it needed to be, dark where it needed to be and always entertaining. The balance between the characters was spot on
I just wanted to sing the praises of your production of ‘Neville's Island’ - it was, in true Lighted Fools fashion, absolutely brilliant
I look forward to seeing your April production
I thought that the play was great as did many others I spoke to
Congratulations on a great production of Neville's Island. My husband gives it ***** ! The acting and directing were superb. Well done to you all!
Congratulations on a great show!
Hope all socks, pants and the Mill have dried out nicely - as always it's a great pity that more people weren't able to see the fruits of your extremely hard work by doing more performances - bit of a tricky one to tour
My husband went on a team-building course in Lake District in the 1980s … said it took him back!
I thought it was one of the best Fools' outings I’ve seen, in terms of all of the actors seeming very comfortable in their roles
Our face ache is slowly wearing off after all the laughter last night. We truly loved it
We belly laughed, it was so good
The comedic timing was superb
Really effective use of the set
We were chuckling all the way home
Thanks for a fantastic evening a la theatre