If Channel 5 made a programme titled ‘When Team Building Goes Wrong’, the plot of this play would be the perfect example of what to include! Four women stranded on an island in the Lake District, lost, hungry, argumentative and each with personal issue being brought to the fore… a recipe for disaster! But luckily for the audience, their situation comes with plenty of laughs and life lessons along the way.
Playwright Tim Firth has reimagined his 1992 comedy hit Neville’s Island with a change of gender to give a new and definitely more menopausal spin on the storyline. For the most part it works well and is engaging and entertaining, bringing a fresh breath to his old work – however, some scenes and story elements felt unrealistic, and the forced narrative made you dislike the characters on several occasions.
So, the play sees four women (Sheila, Denise, Julie, and Fay) stranded in the Lake District after an incident during a team building exercise. Team captain Sheila (Judy Flynn) struggles to keep the team morale alive as the group face a variety of issues such as hunger, the weather, and even a possible killer on the loose… all this along with their own personal issues.
Denise (Abigail Thaw) Denise and Julie (the great Rina Fatania) bring us most of the laughs as they bicker with each other, mainly aimed at Julie’s management style and her position in HR. This conflict reaches boiling point in Act Two as the characters as the verbal attacks become more and more personal. Fay (Sara Crowe) brings a more emotive side to the story, as she struggles to reconcile her faith with a family tragedy that has caused huge pain for her. Each of the cast delivers a strong performance as we are taken on this middle-aged, middle-class, middle-management journey.
The stage set of rocks and trees is efficiently used as the cast sit and move around it throughout the play. It even has a pool of water that the cast enter the stage from at the beginning – they are literally dripping wet from the boat crash and have to change into dry clothes in the first scene (thankfully they also have towels in their rucksacks!) There is also well positioned and effective lighting and sound effects (fireworks and the passing headlights of boats) used which add to the atmosphere and bring the story to life.
All in all, a fun, if not disjointed, evening – not a classic but a reasonable night out with a few dark laughs for a slightly older generation to laugh at themselves and the modern-day work environment (pre Covid mainly!). Personally, I don’t think I would want to work with any of the characters we see on stage, but then I would also not want to be on this disaster of an awayday either! I’m happy with my work from home life at the moment!