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pi: Emyr Young

Blackwood Miner’s Institute

Weds 10 Oct

words: Lynda Nash


Neville may be middle management, but his navigating skills are questionable. While on an outward-bound course in The Lake District he leads his team into murky waters and, after capsizing their canoe, he and his three colleagues find themselves on the deserted island of Derwentwater with no food, no phone signal and no hope.

Poor Nev tries to keep up moral, but Angus is pining for wife Julie, Gordon uses sarcasm as a weapon, and Roy (a recently converted Christian) is about to have his second nervous breakdown. What started off as a team building exercise quickly turns into a personal battle, as one by one the men bare their souls. You wouldn’t want to be stranded with this bunch, but it’s hilarious observing them from the stalls.

Black Rat Productions, who last year had the audience rocking in their seats with Up And Under, have done it again with Neville’s Island. Wickedly funny with some naughty one-liners, a bare bottom, and a huge dollop of pathos, The play infuses comedy with tragedy and takes a jab at management, masculinity, middle-age and religion.

After a side-splitting first act, I left the auditorium at the intermission grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat and I expected the second act to be in the same vein. However, as night falls on Derwentwater, relationships between the men took a nose dive and Gordon’s sarcasm – which had, so far, provided much of the humour – turned to anger. His diatribe on religious belief, The God Delusion, and why only old people go to church, fell like a wet fog over the theatre. Most of the audience were over fifty, and as much as I abhor political correctness, even I felt that the attack – aimed at Roy, who Gordon deemed to be a fake devotee – was off target. It certainly missed the mark as far as comedy goes: it simply wasn’t funny, and, with the mood broken, I wasn’t sure the audience would recover. The play, however, was saved by an oppressed Roy up a tree in his underpants catching dinner, and the night ended on a high. Neville’s Island was written by Tim Firth, who also wrote Calendar Girls, and it was directed by Richard Tunley.  Jams Thomas (Nev), Keiron Self (Angus), Gareth Bale (Gordon), and Peter Brad-Leigh (Roy) give impeccable performances as the four disheveled, scared and starving managers fighting for survival. Great entertainment, and roll on next year’s Black Rat Production!

Neville’s Island continues on tour across South Wales until Thurs 15 Nov. Info: www.blackratproductions.co.uk

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