Neville's Island (Sheringham)
No man is an island, preached John Donne. But what happens when man – four men to be precise – are on an island?
There's nothing like a team-building exercise to induce conflict. Take the characters of Tim Firth's Neville's Island, for example. They are all middle-managers up on the shores of Derwentwater for one of those fiercely competitive company weekends full of physical and intellectual challenges.
Finance manager Neville is the "elected" leader. He has managed to sink the boat in which they are chasing cryptic clues to the next stage of their task. Loud-mouth Gordon doesn't think much of that when the four pull themselves out of the lake cold and dripping wet, and makes his opinion clear quite forcibly.
Angus, it seem appears, may well be one of life's losers. To compensate, he has a rucksack full of every device and bit of equipment you can think of suitable for treks in the Himalayas (or even the Cairngorms). Roy is a twitcher; he has also recently returned to work after a long "convalescence".
There's an excellent set (Kees Van Woerkom) which director Simon Thompson supplements with a soundscape of lapping waves throughout. The first half is very funny as Neville (Richard Keightley) displays ever more incompetence and less leadership abilities – how on earth did he ever get promotion in the first place?
Alec Gray's Angus precisely defines the man who has more-or-less clawed his way up from the shop-floor and doesn't now really fit in anywhere, even in his marriage to Julie. James Hirst as Gordon offers an unlikeable boss, whose only saving grace is that his as abrasive with his peers as with his underlings.
And then there's Roy. There's a mysterious woman in his past – Lucy, with whom he shared so many happy bird-watching hours, among other things which are only gradually revealed as the second half of Firth's play wreathes shadow, sometime violent, over the stranded quartet.
Ryan Starling catches the right note of tarnished innocence from the moment Roy first sights the gyrfalcon which becomes as loaded with symbolism as the Ancient Mariner's albatross of Captain Ahab's white whale. Is there perhaps a moral to this tale? Certainly, deep lakes, small islands and November storms are better avoided.
But can you ever get out of – let alone wreck – company team-building exercises, and still hope to rise further up the management hierarchy to the dizzy level of the boardroom? Somehow I doubt it.
Neville's Island runs at the Little Theatre, Sheringham until 30 August.