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Neville's Island (Chichester)

A cast including Ade Edmondson and Rufus Hound leads a revival of Tim Firth's 1992 comedy in Chichester Festival's temporary Theatre in the Park

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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John Marquez, Rufus Hound, Adrian Edmondson and Tim McMullan
© Johan Persson

Twenty years is not that long ago but Tim Firth's comedy about a team-bonding exercise that goes horribly wrong already looks out of date. It's not only that the plot hinges on the fact that only one of the four senior businessmen has a mobile phone, the whole notion of such outward-bound adventuring seems bound up in the 80s and 90s.

There's a germ of an idea here: one that would make a decent sitcom, but stretched out to two hours, the holes in the plot look rather wide. And one certainly gets the impression that Firth was struggling for an ending; there's a little too much filler as it all gets rather meandering towards the end. There are some good jokes - the riffing on the rules of French cricket is very funny - but some of the others are so telegraphed, it's a wonder they weren't printed on flyers and handed out with the tickets.

Most of the good lines are delivered by Adrian Edmondson's Gordon, one of those annoying individuals who has a gag for every occasion. It's a reminder that Edmondson is a talented comedian but it's a very one-dimensional performance that doesn't capture the essence of a man whose incessant gag-telling masks deeper failures. Similarly, Rufus Hound doesn't bring out the subtleties of the troubled Roy.

There are more subtle performances: as Angus, Tim McMullan captures the sadness of a man who relishes the latest gadgets but can't bring himself to tell his wife he loves her - there's real poignancy as he considers her alleged infidelities on the bread counter of Sainsbury's. And I liked John Marquez's Neville, the self-appointed leader of the group, whose fondness for the intricacies of cryptic crosswords gets them into problems in the first place.

Director Angus Jackson keeps the whole thing moving along briskly and the jokes come thick and fast. But one gets the impression the play was chosen because it would make use of the vast space within Chichester's temporary theatre. Indeed, Robert Innes Hopkins' stunning set is an eye-catching spectacle, it's just that the play that fills it is a bit awry.