Writer: William Golding
Adapted: Nigel Williams
Director: Timothy Sheader
Reviewer: Matt Forrest
Seldom has a production had such a visceral impact, as this current touring production of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies
The play opens with the debris of a passenger aeroplane, strewn across an unnamed tropical paradise, luggage and cloths are scattered across the stage. Instantly Jon Bausor’s impressive set design has you captivated and drawn into this idyllic paradise where all hell is about to break loose.
The story begins with the meeting of schoolboys Ralph (Luke Ward-Wilkinson) and Piggy (Anthony Roberts), Ralph a charming, confident boy, while Piggy, less so, despite their differences the boys form an instant bond. Eventually more survivors arrive led by Jack (Freddie Watkins), and so begins what at first seems like an enjoyable adventure romp: the boys quickly discover they are on their own, and can do what they like. The action is dragged into the 21st century with a selfie-stick, 3G, and what appears to be a mock wizard fight from Harry Potter. However the jolly japery soon turns to chaos, as we see that without rule or structure, some of them give way to darker tendencies, and eventually a battle between good and evil begins.
The young cast is excellent, and work their socks off in what are, on the whole, physically demanding roles. Watkins as Jack is outstanding as the main antagonist of the piece, really getting under your skin, which is everything you could wish for in a villain. Ward-Wilkinson is equally impressive as we see him morph from the gang’s charismatic leader, to a broken shell of his former self. However it is Roberts as Piggy and Keenan Munn-Francis, as Simon who steal the show: their turns as the group’s voice of reason, and conscience, holding the piece together.
Timothy Sheader’s direction is top draw, all the performances seem natural, and you get a real sense of despair and madness from the cast. However it is the slowed down scenes of slaughter and violence that are the real highlights: it is a great use of physical theatre and dance involving the entire cast that leave a lasting impression that will linger on in your memory.
That is to say the production isn’t without its flaws, there are some brief moments of swearing, which feel unnecessary and thrown in. There is also a scene where the group discuss ‘bants’ or banter which fails miserably as a comedy interlude showing the groups early misguided camaraderie,
This is a faithful (albeit with some modernisation) adaptation of Golding’s book, containing all the themes that have made it such an important work of literature for well over the last 60 years. There are some truly harrowing and heart breaking scenes, which certainly leave a mark, some of the scenes make for uncomfortable viewing but never in a gratuitous way. Lord of the Flies stirs up a mixture of emotions anger, despair, and outrage, and that is for my money what good theatre should do, leave you entertained but provide you with a great deal to mull over.
Lord of the Flies is on at the Playhouse Theatre Liverpool until 6th February