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

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 - Credit: Archant

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).

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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.

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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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