Review: Neville's Island
This article is pending translation.
Throw four very Welsh businessmen aiming for promotion into a rowboat for a teamwork exercise, have them crash and left stranded on an island in the Lake District, and what do you get? The madness and hilarity that is Neville’s Island. The Black RAT and Blackwood Miners Institute co-production is touring Wales throughout October and November, and Tim Firth’s West End play is certainly one worth catching.
These four bumbling, bungling yet loveable men evoked laughter, sympathy and understanding from an audience that were clearly loving every minute. During the interval and once it had finished, a word I kept hearing from many a spectator, was simply "brilliant".
With comic timing down to a tee, the distinctive, individual characters really made this play, with impressive physicality and characterisation, all the way down to the little mannerisms. With no lack of mishaps involving a sausage, sparklers and a questionable ‘flag’ to name but a few, I can confidently say that there was not a dull moment.
The title role of Neville was played by Jāms Thomas and he was the fatherly leader and ‘captain’ of the team yet he wasn’t the stand out character. However this may be because he was a more of a passive character rather than the outright obvious humorous roles of the others. Neville didn’t appear to have as much of a background story, but he gave a really convincing performance and his more subtle comedy was excellent.
Roy, played by Peter Brad-Leigh, was the geeky, devout Christian birdwatcher, the kind of guy that wears a shirt and tie in the wilderness, and would make you say “Aw bless.” Yet underneath the awkward, twitchy exterior, there is a deeper story of loss that shows this play is not all about the laughs. Then we have the camp, clumsy, puppy-dog-esque Angus, acted marvellously by My Family’s Keiron Self, who epitomises the phrase ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ as he kept revealing more and more kitchen utensils from his rucksack.
Gareth Bale played the real stand out character, Gordon. Sarcastic, atheist, and generally angry, his brilliant dry, poker face humour stole the show, reeling off insults in his Swansea dialect with a typically Welsh straight mocking tone. With a dark, murderous expression sustained throughout and a dramatic, serious performance that was first-class and had me slightly in awe. I think most of the audience faced the dilemma of deciding whether to actually like him or not, as his brilliant comedy value had your shoulders shaking, but at the end of the day, he wasn’t a particularly nice character. But once again there was more to him than it originally seemed, as his underlying loneliness is gradually revealed.
The characters all represent different aspects of people, but combined into four personas allows arguments, clashes and crazy murder attempts alike, with Neville’s feeble attempts to push them aside with “He’s just hungry.” The second act boils up to a mad, bizarre ending where you have no idea whether to laugh hysterically, completely breakdown in tears, or just become one big mess and do both all at once; with an interesting, creditable set, you really get a feel for their claustrophobia and frustration as they start to squabble from the off.
Amongst all the laughter, the play ran high with emotions with clear themes and messages of loneliness, love, religion, mental state and resentment. With outstandingly believable performances on the more serious side of the play, as Tim Firth himself said, the actors in Neville’s Island, “Really suffer for their art” as they begin the play half-drowned, have to change with precariously tied towels around their waists, and really have quite, what can only be described as, an ordeal.
I couldn’t recommend this play more, catch it while you can in one or more of many venues across Wales to really see four fantastic performances in a play that’s brilliantly written and directed. This is not one to miss.
Neville's Island is touring all around Wales this autumn. Click here to find info on the tour dates and how to book tickets.