Home » London Theatre Reviews » Neville’s Island at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch | Review

Neville’s Island at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch | Review

The Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch is one of the first producing regional theatres to open up again after the various lockdowns of the last sixteen months, albeit in a very safe, Covid secure, way, with socially distanced seating meaning that less than 30% of the auditorium is used, temperatures of all audience members being taken on entry, one-way systems in operation and drinks being ordered and served at seats. One feels as safe as it is possible to feel!

Neville's Island - Photo Credit Mark Sepple.
Neville’s Island – Photo Credit Mark Sepple.

Tim Firth, perhaps best known for Calendar Girls penned and staged Neville’s Island in 1992 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, and it shows clear signs of Alan Ayckbourn’s influence, lulling the audience into a false sense of security by pretending to be a light comedy at the start, but quickly becoming a very black comedy, eminently watchable and very involving throughout.

The play takes place on Guy Fawkes Night, and concerns four middle managers who have been sent on a team-building weekend to the Lake District. Neville (a beautifully understated performance by Sean Michael Verey) is elected to be the leader who has to complicate and misunderstand every instruction the group has been given and leads them onto an island in the middle of one of the deepest lakes. To say that team destruction rather than building takes place is an understatement!

I have seen the play several times since Scarborough and have no hesitation in saying that this production, by Emma Baggott is by far the best! The pace at first is terrific, but the director allows the play to breathe where necessary in order to bring out the more poignant moments before rushing us all headlong into the next comic disaster. At times Firth makes the play quite controversial, looking at attitudes to both religion and mental health – here little has changed in nearly thirty years!

Beruce Khan is an impressive Angus, Philip Cairns a very believable Gordon and Stephen Leask’s portrayal of Roy very true to life, but there are no stars – each is part of the team onstage, helping us to care about them.

The stylised set has been cleverly designed by James Button with several different areas at varying levels for the actors to use and inventive lighting is by Stephen Pemble, always ensuring that the actors’ faces can be seen.

All in all, a superb revival of a play which in lesser hands can seem dull – it’s not here!

Whenever I see the play, I always look forward to the Pizza scene, perhaps the funniest and yet saddest moment, beautifully written and at Hornchurch beautifully directed: it really works!

Hornchurch is not far from central London and is well worth the journey to see Neville’s Island. Don’t hesitate – GO!

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

Four out-of-condition clueless middle managers are forced on the outdoor awayday from hell. Shipwrecked, wrapped in thick fog and cut off from civilisation with one cold sausage between them, Gordon, Angus, Roy and the hapless Neville‎ are about to experience the misadventure of their lives…

From the critically acclaimed Tim Firth, writer of Calendar Girls, The Band and Our House, this award-nominated West End comedy is the perfect entertainment to welcome audiences safely back to live theatre, on their doorstep this summer.

Beruce Khan – Angus
Philip Cairns – Gordon
Sean Michael Verey – Neville
Stephen Leask – Roy

Director Emma Baggott
Set and Costume Designer James Button
Sound Designer Alexandra Faye Braithwaite
Lighting Designer Stephen Pemble
Fight Director Haruka Kuroda
Casting Director Matthew Dewsbury
Executive Producer Mathew Russell

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
Billet Lane
RM11 1QT


  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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