TIM FIRTH’S ‘NEVILLE’S ISLAND’ @ THE ENSEMBLE THEATRE

An office ‘team-building’ weekend camping trip in Tasmania brings together some unlikely and in some cases unlikeable characters.  Four mismatched, middle management, city-dwelling colleagues find themselves hopelessly and cluelessly stranded on a remote, freezing, wet and foggy island.

Tim Firth’s 1992 play, NEVILLE’S ISLAND, originally set in the Lake District of England, has been successfully transformed into the wilds of Tasmania by director Mark Kilmurry, who himself played the acerbic character Gordon in a production in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1996.

Kilmurry has cleverly re-cast the play to include three of the Chaser team, Chris Taylor (Gordon), Andrew Hansen (Roy), Craig Reucassel (Angus) and long-time actor, director, writer and producer David Lynch (Neville).  As the play is essentially a comedy, the chemistry works really well.

Lynch plays the incompetent team leader, Neville, with contagious warmth and optimism and so becomes, in some ways, the spiritual leader.

Reucassel is unknowingly charming and delightfully vague as Angus, the fussy, naive collector of camping utensils who has no idea how to use them, but his bag of props turn out to be extremely useful.

Hansen brings uncanny joy and happiness to his character Roy, the mentally unstable Christian bird-watcher, the most vulnerable of the four.

Taylor seems to relish his character Gordon, whose clever one-liners are central to the humour of the play.  Gordon has a cruel and destructive talent for mockery and Taylor uses this to dominate the stage with a John Cleese like edge to his delivery.  Gordon is the least vulnerable and quite a selfish and unlikable character.

As the cold night approaches, the men become more desperate and some very funny scenes ensue.  One in particular shows them taking Angus’ machete to carve up a sausage, their only food, and argue over its distribution.

The set design by Hugh O’Connor is fantastic. As the play begins fog leaks out of a soggy patch of land surrounded by bushes.  The actors come out drenched from the swamp (as a result of showering backstage and using a bucket of water throughout the play), Gordon has lost his backpack full of gourmet food and they proceed to take off their soggy socks.

Lighting by Benjamin Brockman, sound by Darryl Wallis and wardrobe by Alana Canceri all contribute to the amazing atmosphere of this production. Make-up artist Peggy Carter also does a stellar job of applying mud backstage to the actors throughout the play.

The play’s focus is on white-collar ineptitude, broken communication, selfishness and vulnerability.  I can recommend NEVILLE’S ISLAND as a great theatre experience with a lot of laughs and very enjoyable performances.

Tim Firth’s NEVILLE’S ISLAND plays at the Ensemble Theatre until Saturday 12th August, 2017.

 

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