Four male middle management executives. Lost on an island in the Lake District. Arguments, survival and black comedy. Sound like a good evening?
As soon as you walk into the auditorium of the Duke of York’s theatre, you are submerged into the world of Neville’s Island.The audience are confronted with trees the actors can climb, rocks and a lot of water. Even when the actors first appear of the stage, they too, are covered in water (I can only imagine that to be an unpleasant process backstage). Robert Innes Hopkins’ design is wonderful to observe, it is incredibly realistic and is the perfect backdrop for the story. As well as appealing to our sight, it also engages our sense of smell. The smell of rain was particularly convincing, plus, the actors even cook real sausages on stage…and the smell is delicious (make sure you have dinner before you go). These touches, added by director Angus Jackson, make you feel like you’re stranded alongside these men.
I was lucky enough to have won tickets to see this production. If I hadn’t of won tickets, it may not have been on my list of ‘top 5’ things to see, despite four big names starring - Ade Edmondson, Miles Jupp, Neil Morrissey and Robert Webb. All these actors/comedians have been ‘doing the circuit for years’ and I’m sometimes sceptical when shows have an all-star cast, as to if they are actually good enough, or is it just there name?
The first act seemed slow, it took a while for the characters to be established. Tim Firths writing has a very truthful feel; however, when this transcribes to action it seemed to be lacking pace and energy. We do, however, have to bear in mind that this was the third day of this production. However, the characterisation of the four individuals worked well and the juxtaposition of the cynical Gordon, against team leader, Neville, the idiotic Angus, against heavily Christian Roy, worked excellently and allows for these characters to be identifiable to ‘middle aged men’. However, the target audience is obviously not teenagers. It is more geared for middle class adults who have been in situations similar to what these characters are going through.
Even though the first act did not provide enough depth or comedy, the second half was completely contrasting. The concise, thoughtful writing of Firth came through and we saw the characters all go through their own dilemma. The second act was detailed, interesting and showed the true potential of this comedy. Webb (Roy) had some very touching moments and was one of the ‘stand out’ for performances for me.
Even though it is early days for this West End production (it premiered at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2013), it is evident that it has bags of potential. Despite it not having the biggest target audience compared to other productions, it has a certain charm that enticed me and will most audience members.
Neville's Island official press night was 23rd October and it is showing at the Duke Of York's Theatre until 3 January 2015.
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