|Photo by Prudence Upton
Ensemble present NEVILLE'S ISLAND, by Tim Firth, at the Ensemble Theatre, McDougall St, Kirribilli. 29 June - 12 August.
Four middle-aged men on a community/business bonding excursion are wrecked on the rocks of an island, are stranded and out of network contact. Each man with a hidden 'psychic' break lurking just below their consciousness, under the duress of this isolation and their relatively inept ability to adapt to the challenges, disintegrate into a bourgeois (and superficial) 'Lord of the Flies' scenario. The conceit of this work is that it is filtered through the 'mask of comedy' with not too much swap to the 'mask of tragedy'.
NEVILLE'S ISLAND, by Tim Firth, was a play commissioned by Alan Ayckbourn for his theatre in Scarborough. It transferred to the West End for a successful season. It, also, was made into a television comedy in 1998 - unfortunately, for me, it is not a GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. Mr Firth's most famous work is CALENDAR GIRLS, a re-write of his film, which later, became a musical called, THE GIRLS. For this play Mr Kilmurry has adapted the text with Australian sociological and geographical references.
Mark Kilmurry, has cast actor, David Lynch (Neville), with a company of television performers: Andrew Hansen (Roy), Craig Reucassel (Angus) and Chris Taylor (Gordon), whom some of us may celebrate as part of the outrageous The Chaser Team and their other satiric 'spin-off's': The Hamster Wheel, CNNN, The Checkout and War on Waste, that have (will) be remembered for their important contribution to Australian television comic history. The honed comic skills of these performers are employed with witty observation of 'characteristics' of the men they are impersonating and are infused with the core warmth and appeal of the personas of each of these appealing well known personalities. It is an easy night in the theatre. Really, not much more challenging than a night in front of your television set watching a well written but lightweight sit-com.
It is simply told on an inventive 'island' Set Design by Hugh O'Connor, lit by Ben Brookman with his usual panache, supported by a Sound Design of bird noises, fireworks and nearby, but 'blasé', civilisation mechanics: a passing disco cruise boat, a search plane and a rescue helicopter, among them! The costume/stage management department have quiet a challenge with all those wet clothes (those 'poor' actors in the middle of winter!) - well done!
My last time in the Ensemble Theatre was watching their wonderful production of Edward Albee's genius play, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? I loved all three hours of its harrowing comic inventiveness - it is a great play. NEVILLE'S ISLAND, no matter the skill in putting it together, is not a necessary 'cup of tea' for me - it is a sedate, commercial piece of ordinary television writing. But following through on the Company's by-line : "ENSEMBLE - theatre for everyone", this production will please some of their audience. It seems to be astute commercial curating, for, most of the audience I was with, had a very good time.
Horses For Courses, no doubt!