The play brings to mind the 1954 novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding. In that novel Golding uses children to show man’s capable descent into turmoil and savagery. In his play Tim Firth chooses to use four middle aged, middle management men to do much the same. These men are stranded though, not on some remote exotic island, but upon the wet and cold environs of Rampsholme Island on Derwentwater. However, Neville, Gordon, Angus and Roy’s descent is equally as quick as Ralph and his allies in Lord of the Flies, and the play demonstrates how they are brought down by the rumours and prejudices they have cultivated in their office environment and which now bloom on the island.
Neville, the self-appointed captain (John Weetman) is a pompous but likeable bubble of ineffectual wind. Stephen Hendren as Roy, bears the beatific smile of a recent convert to religion, but the stricken look in his eyes suggests that he is perilously close to the edge of another breakdown. The office bully Gordon (Steve Bennett) uses the predicament to give full vent to his blistering sarcasm, while miserable Angus (Damien Kavanagh), agonises over his middle-class lifestyle and precarious marriage.
If this synopsis makes the play sound overly serious, a glance at the subtitle of the play (‘A comedy in thick fog’) points out its aims towards a mixture of comedy and darkness and most of the laughs – and this is a hugely funny play, sometimes savagely so – stem from the alacrity with which the normal civilities of office life are abandoned to recriminations, bullying, breast-beating and middle-age angst.
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