Escape from Lord of Files

PUBLISHED: 16:37 26 November 2008 | UPDATED: 17:26 16 August 2010

TIM Firth wrote Neville s Island well over a decade ago, but it still seems as relevant as ever, writes Mark Campbell. Four middle managers

TIM Firth wrote Neville's Island well over a decade ago, but it still seems as relevant as ever, writes Mark Campbell.

Four middle managers from a spring water company have been washed ashore on an island in the Lake District, miles from anywhere.

They are supposed to be on one of those dreaded team-building exercises so beloved of personnel departments - but instead end up re-enacting Darwin's survival of the fittest.

In Bromley Little Theatre's production, Paul Johnson played Neville, the self-appointed leader and over-intellectual navigator whose love of cryptic crosswords strands them in completely the wrong place.

Tim Betts was Angus, a man whose voluminous rucksack contained every labour-saving device under the sun (including three sizes of spatula) but who lacked any kind of social skills.

As Roy, Martin Dale was a deeply evangelical Christian teetering on the verge of another breakdown.

His obsession with a particularly rare falcon proves to be of unexpected importance.

Into this unlikely group of survivalists strutted Gordon (David Hedges), the token bully who - like all his kind - gets a perverse pleasure from humiliating anyone weaker than him.

The Office crossed with Apocalypse Now ("It's like Lord of the Files!" exclaims one character), the story grows steadily grimmer as the men's predicament worsens.

But, like Alan Ayckbourn's Way Upstream, a play with a broadly similar theme, things get so melodramatic towards the end that it becomes difficult to maintain credibility.

And the overtly Christ-like climax seems to come from another play entirely.

However, the four actors were all exceptional in their very different roles.

Tim Betts' comic timing was perfect, Martin Dale's bumbling do-gooder was never less than sympathetic, and Paul Johnson made a likeably inept non-navigator.

Gordon was well played by David Hedges, although the character's lack of development soon became the play's weakest element.

The island itself - a botanic wilderness designed by Tony Jenner - was extremely convincing, aiding the audience's suspension of disbelief and grounding the whole story in an environment that was authentically claustrophobic.

Top marks to director Paul Campion for bringing out the very best in his cast and for providing an excellent evening's entertainment.

The next production at Bromley Little Theatre is Ken Campbell's riotous comedy Old King Cole from December 5-13. Tickets: 07917 853621

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