Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Review: Neville’s Island at the Duke Of York's Theatre

Neville’s Island
Duke Of York's Theatre
Reviewed on Saturday 18th October (matinee)

Last seen in the West End twenty years ago, Neville’s Island is back after a successful run at the Chichester Festival Theatre. Written by Tim Firth, whose name has become synonymous with British comedy after the runaway success of Calendar Girls both on the screen and stage, Neville’s Island explores the relationship between four men who find themselves stranded on an island together.

Neville (Neil Morrissey), Angus (Miles Jupp), Gordon (Ade Edmonson) and Roy (Robert Webb) are thrust into the wild open plains of the Lake District by their bosses as a team building exercise, but thanks to Neville’s penchant for cryptic crosswords they end up stuck on a small island in thick fog with no chance of escape. Things start to slowly unravel as Gordon takes it upon himself to mentally attack each of his co-workers until Roy’s dark past comes to light, causing the others to freak out.

Adrian Edmondson as Gordon, Miles Jupp as Angus & Neil Morrissey as Neville

Despite being Firth’s first recognised play, the dialogue is razor sharp and explores the male need for control and dominance. Throughout the play are brilliantly constructed set pieces that cause the audience to rise from their seats in anticipation, the best of which centres on Angus’s sausage… 

Adrian Edmondson as Gordon
These four powerhouses of British comedy bring the script to life with a well-crafted comic timing while remaining on the right side of caricature. Edmonson (the only actor to reprise his performance from Chichester) steals the show with his desperately frustrated Gordon, offering not only his trademark anger (best known as Vyvyan in The Young Ones and Edward in Bottom) but also a deep sadness and humility which you don’t often see in larger than life characters. 

This is where Angus Jackson’s direction really shines. Not only does he keep the action driving along, highlighting the biggest jokes with moments of well-choreographed stillness, but also keeps the humility and naturalism at the heart of the script. 

A specific mention to Robert Innes Hopkins’ set has to be made. The stage is transformed into an ultra-naturalistic riverbank with trees, falling rain and running water, lit wonderfully by Howard Harrison’s lighting design.

The play itself has a lot to offer, from laugh out loud comedy to a commentary on what it means to be a man in a modern world, but what really makes this production worth catching is the opportunity to witness four geniuses of comedy bounce off each other right in front of your eyes. 

Reviewed by Dan Phillips

Neville’s Island runs at the Duke Of York's Theatre until Saturday 3rd January 2015.
Please visit for further information.

Photo Credit:  Johan Persson

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