by Tim Firth.
Stephen Joseph Theatre (The Round) Westborough YO11 1JW To 27 August 2015.
Tue-Thu 7.30pm Mat Thu 1.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 01723 370541.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 July.
Water-bound comedy rubs salt in the wounds in another Scarborough homecoming.
This 60th birthday season of Scarborough’s Theatre-in-the-Round focuses on past triumphs. That includes Alan Ayckbourn, without whom the theatre is unlikely to have survived to reach its current age and status. But there are also summer seasons for two other successes, the surprise studio Christmas show that became a West End long-runner The Woman in Black – its Scarborough cast now ensconced in London’s Fortune – and this revival of Tim Firth’s first (and, possibly, still best) play.
The survival of Neville’s Island from 1992, when its background of team-building was fashionable business practice, as Neville and three contrasting colleagues find themselves marooned on Rampsholme Island (where, the National Trust says, “not much of note has happened”) in Derwentwater one foggy November night, speaks for the play’s verbal wit, its invention of revealing comic situations within the limits of the small lake-island setting, and a relentless exposure of character throughout.
Henry Bell read the play when he was at school, and he brings a new generation’s artistic sensibility to his revival. The four mineral-water executives lost amid the natural phenomenon of water are placed by Bell and designer Lucy Weller in an abstract space marked only by a wave of colour. There is less sense of people straight from the office or, for example, of Neville completing a daily crossword among the rest of the day’s routines.
And without Russell Dixon’s splenetic rage firing, and finally defining the emptiness within, Gordon at the premier, there’s lower octane laughter, a tendency increased by a staging which often keeps the men separate. But if there’s reduced hilarity, there are still more than enough laughs to go round.
And Bell’s staging cleary uncovers the emptiness within each man, explaining the different hidden angsts with which they irritate each other daily. Daniel Crowder’s self-absorption as Neville, with his over-elaborate crossword complexities, Craig Cheetham’s Gordon set in a rut of sarcasm, John Last’s Angus, only a jolt away from a breakdown and Jamie Chapman as Roy, glued together by faith, become individual portraits examined mercilessly by Firth’s incisive dialogue and the scalpel-like probing of Bell’s production.
Roy: Jamie Chapman.
Gordon: Craig Cheetham.
Neville: Daniel Crowder.
Angus: John Last.
Director: Henry Bell.
Designer: Lucy Weller.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Sound: Paul Steer.
Composer: Matthew Twaites.
Fight director: Liam Evans-Ford.