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Neville’s Island: Theatre in the Park. Chichester.
Mud, rain, blood and team building. It’s a familiar theme for anyone who has undergone the dubious delights of corporate away days, although perhaps not always the shedding of vital bodily fluids.
Whether it is raft building or constructing an imaginary bridge over an imaginary river filled with imaginary alligators, the object is seldom to complete the task at hand but always to bond with your fellow castaways. Inevitably leaders emerge, the weak find a voice, and someone finds absolution before dinner.
Playwright Tim Firth has set his team-building-from-Hell saga on the rain-swept, rocky crag of Rampsholme Island in the Lake District’s Derwent Water. Here, cast ashore following the sinking of their rowing boat, are Team C from the Pennine Mineral Water company, whose map reading and clue following skills, or lack of any, are to challenge them much more than their weekend away was designed to do.
Struggling to come to terms with the inevitable deepening crisis, we find Production Manager Gordon (Adrian Edmondson), Finance Manger Roy (Rufus Hound), Distribution Manager Angus (Tim McMullan) and team captain Marketing Manager Neville (John Marquez).
Firth wastes no time introducing his characters in their comfort zones, but thrusts them and the audience immediately into the rain-sodden despair of Rampsholme, where matters begin to unravel from the moment Gordon emerges from the Lake’s waters minus his rucksack and much vital equipment.
Edmondson is given quite the best lines throughout, his biting sarcasm and re-telling of each disaster, from sunken sausages to failed karaoke rescue bid, are audience favourites. Inevitably it will end in blood, and probably the Production Manager’s own.
Hound, as the born-again Christian who seems more interested in the local birdlife than escaping from their plight, spends much of his time conversing with God and nature atop a tree. While McMullan, his Tardis-like rucksack seeming to contain every piece of equipment short of the one the team needs, frets over his missing wife and imaginary amorous encounters at the Tesco bread aisle.
As team captain Marquez calls on his experience in bringing up his twin girls to attempt to hold his group together, the nights draw in and deliverance seems always just out of reach across the fog-laden water.
Matters reach an inevitable conclusion with fireworks both on the island and in the distance as Bonfire Night celebrations echo the detonations in the group.
Starring throughout is the Island itself, a fantastic rain-swept creation from the mind of designer Robert Innes-Hopkins. Front rows should be beware when the action strays into the lake’s waters just feet from their seats.
Director Angus Jackson has created a marvellous piece that will undoubtedly do much welcome harm to the Corporate Team-Building industry. No HR manager should miss it.
Neville’s Island runs until September 28
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