NEVILLE’S ISLAND – ANOTHER SUCCESS FOR OSMOTHERLEY VILLAGE THEATRE
This play opened recently in London to a mixed reception. The same cannot be said for Osmotherley Village Theatre’s latest production, which played to packed houses for 3 nights. It was clear that the Osmotherley audiences thoroughly enjoyed Tim Firth’s play about four middle managers sent away for a team-building weekend. By making mistakes with their initial directions, they find themselves staggering ashore, soaked and stranded on an island in Derwentwater. Relationships soon deteriorate under the pressures of their incompatible personalities, poor preparation and incompetence, and the predicament they find themselves in. With few practical survival skills and growing friction, things go from bad to worse and reach a “crisis”, although they won’t admit it.
The play had demanding parts for the four actors but they all performed outstandingly, with well-judged interpretations of their respective dysfunctional characters. Team leader Neville (Paul Howlett) whose poor navigation has got them into this mess, hates confrontation and tries in vain to calm matters. Gordon (Barrie Robinson) considers himself to be a comedian but becomes more unpleasant with his sarcastic and cruel jokes aimed at Angus and Roy. Angus (Alex Bilby) has compensated for his lack of confidence by over-preparation. Although he has brought a huge rucksack of equipment, he somehow fails to produce the items when needed. The quartet is completed by Roy (Gary Greening) who, unlike the others, actually appears to be enjoying the situation with a boyish enthusiasm, especially for bird-watching. He never wavers in his belief that God is insome way testing the team and will ultimately provide a solution.
With some scenes that at times are just too implausible, the director (Di Stokeld) did remarkably well to bring out the underlying seriousness within the script and to show that Gordon’s cruel humour is harming his colleagues. Angus sinks into silent depression, concerned by Gary’s teasing that his wife could be unfaithful. The cruel mockery of Roy’s religious beliefs pushes him to reveal his past breakdown and to recall his odd relationship with his mother. Despite being reproached by Neville, Gordon right to the end appears to be indifferent that he is the cause of most of the distress. Maybe the audience felt a tinge of guilt towards the end, for being so complicit with Gordon and laughing at his insensitive humour before they realised the harm that it was doing.
Highest awards must go to the back-stage team of Brian Holder and Jean Lake who designed and painted a most realistic island setting, and Bob Manners (lighting and sound). A large supporting crew led by producer (Virginia Cowie) helped to make this into a hugely entertaining evening. This was an outstanding performance by a very accomplished theatre group and which deserved the rapturous applause at the final curtain.