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Theatre review: Neville's Island, Duke of York's Theatre

PUBLISHED: 12:44 29 October 2014 | UPDATED: 14:30 29 October 2014

Adrian Edmondson as Gordon, Miles Jupp as Angus, Neil Morrissey as Neville Pic: Johan Persson

Adrian Edmondson as Gordon, Miles Jupp as Angus, Neil Morrissey as Neville Pic: Johan Persson

JOHAN PERSSON

Duke of York's Theatre

Having grown up in the 90s, the thought of an on-stage comedy featuring Neil Morrissey and Adrian Edmondson made me almost tumescent with excitement.

Many a happy evening flew by in my youth watching Men Behaving Badly and Bottom, and as a fan of Peep Show in later years the inclusion of Robert Webb spelt an all-star cast of comedy heavyweights to me.

Neville’s Island was written by Tim Firth way back in 1992, and has been successful ever since, with various stagings and even a TV film based on it. It tells the tale of four middle-management chaps forced to spend the night under the stars in the lake district with nothing but a compass and the packs on their backs – all in the name of that dreaded phrase, “team building”.

Predictably things go awry, and much hilarity ensues as the characters’ already rather noticeable foibles get magnified to border-line mania by the crisis (just don’t call it a crisis).

The set is fantastic - swaying trees and real drizzle make you pretty glad you’re safe and snug in your seat - and cunning use of lights and animal sound effects give a good impression of the great outdoors.

And the laughs come thick and fast, although disappointingly it’s not as funny as the sum of its parts might suggest.

There’s certainly plenty of gags, Edmondson’s rants being the chief source, and some of the hijinks as they attempt to divide a sausage or flee from an imaginary flesh-eating beast certainly raised a chuckle from me.

It’s rather like watching a sit-com version of Lord of the Flies as the foursome get more and more desperate, and some of their amusing personality quirks suddenly become more severe as one-by-one they start to examine themselves.

It all gets a bit serious towards the slightly abrupt ending, which is not the story’s strong point. Giggles are what this play’s about; concentrate on that and it’s a very enjoyable romp.

Jon Dean

Four stars

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