The arrival of The Feast of Snails should have been doubly welcome - both as a brand-new play by a new author on Shaftesbury Avenue and also in marking the return to the British stage, after a 30-year-absence, of the 1960s RSC star David Warner. In fact, the promised dramatic feast quickly turns out to be a famine. If Warner has finally gotten over the well-documented stage fright that has kept him away from the theatre for so long, this play, however, is enough to induce a fear of going to see an untried play ever again on West End audiences.

There's also a palpable sense of déjà vu hanging over it all. Not since another film star, Donald Sutherland, made a rare return to the London stage in Enigmatic Variations two summers ago, has such a stiltedly lame and similarly sinister vehicle been foisted upon us. In that one act, 90-minute drama, set on a remote island off Norway, we observed a confrontation between an eccentric loner (a celebrated author) and an unexpected visitor.

The Feast of Snails is an overcooked, under-nourished repeat of the same formula. Likewise presented in one act and 100 minute (a virtue only in as much as it prevents the audience's escape in the interval), this time the setting is Iceland, and - guess what? - we're again witness to a confrontation between an eccentric loner (a rich businessman) and a visitor who knocks at the door and is suddenly invited to dinner.

The unwitting host, Karl Johnson (Warner), is a member of a Parisian gastronomic society, and implausibly partakes of their festivities by arranging for his cook and maid (respectively Sorcha Cusack and Siwan Morris) to serve him the identical meal they are eating there while he's at home alone. Except not tonight. When a primary school teacher, David Paulsen (Philip Glenister), whom he doesn't think he knows, unexpectedly arrives, the visitor is yet more implausibly invited to join him.

As the pair tuck into a feast of snails of various nationalities, including the highly suspect Icelandic variety which might be poisonous but are alternately described as being "as lazy as country priests", the play is even lazier in its exposition and dramatic tension, not to mention stage management. Several of the courses are barely touched. (Quite what the poor actors are eating when they do is another question that need not detain us here, but contemplating the answer is about as exciting as the evening gets).

Warner, a suavely accomplished actor with the authority and vocal inflections of a low-budget Ian McKellen, diligently gives it all he's worth. Olaf Olafsson's play, however, is a non-starter, and under the static direction of Ron Daniels, utterly fails to ignite.

- Mark Shenton