Chichester Festival Theatre at the Theatre in the Park
"They do like water at the Chichester theatre …" someone remarks in the queue for ice-cream. And yes, the front row does get damp again.
No capering Gene Kelly here, though, just four thoroughly wet middle managers from Salford. Really, thoroughly wet. We can't help but sympathise with them as they drip in the inhospitable Lake District, stranded on an island when their Blue Sky Outbound team-building exercise goes tragically tits-up …
Designer Robert Innes Hopkins has come up with a very convincing promontory for them, with conifers disappearing up into the big top, the constant, drenching rain falling onto a pebbly, rocky shore surrounded by Derwentwater, out of which, like Venus from the waves, emerges Adrian Edmondson's Gordon.
A cynical, caustic bully, he is the catalyst for the meltdown – the very opposite of bonding – that the crisis brings to Neville's team. A brilliantly observed character, the lines delivered with deadly accuracy.
Neville himself, the captain whose orienteering leads his men astray, is John Marquez. Tim McMullan is the dim, hapless Angus, with his bottomless rucksack and gnawing self-doubt, and Roy, from Finance, the Christian twitcher, is nicely done by Rufus Hound, wrestling with his demons in the look-out tree.
Angus Jackson's production of Tim Firth's classic is impressive on many levels. There are plenty of laughs, but some very uncomfortable moments too. The sausage mishap, so easy to predict, is done with finely judged suspense, and the dénouement, with manna, and marine rescue, from heaven, is thrillingly dramatic, with the chopper's down-draught as real as the rain and falco rusticolus.
I'm sure I spotted some sort of lacewing or mosquito flying through the mist on the lake. I hope there's an accredited insect handler on the production team ...
rain on Rampsholme from my seat in the front stalls