DramaReviewSouth West

Lord of the Flies – The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Written by: William Golding

Director: Emma Jordan

Reviewer: Beth Steer

Set on a remote island, where a group of crash-landed school children are creating a new, temporary, and terrifying society, Lord of the Flies is every bit as enthralling as it is uncomfortable. As the kids ‘rip up the rule book and start all over again’, their island adventures soon turn into a chilling, dystopian microcosm of the things society fears most – lawlessness, gang-war, and mania.

Emma Jordan’s contemporary, all-female reimagining of William Golding’s classic novel is bold, nightmarish, and captivating. From the moment the opening scene makes you jump, right through to the illusion-shattering conclusion, you’ll be glued to your seat unable to decide which gruesomely uncomfortable dialogue, ritual, or movement to focus on first. It’s shadowy, with real flames flickering on the jagged stage, glimpses of actors crawling through the dramatic slatted staging, and whispered chants that you’re not quite sure you’ve heard, all evoking the elusive and haunting ‘beast’ that divides the island into ‘us’ and ‘them’: the hunters, and the hunted. 

The intensity is astonishing. Right from the start, the children’s dialogue fires rapidly, flicking between sense and ‘grown-up’ intentions – like meetings, rules, and… well, more meetings, to primitive, dark and shocking desires, with a fixation on hunting, tracking, tracing, and killing. As a group, the chemistry of the actors on stage is enthralling – so much so that it all feels a little too real. Each of the character’s nastiness feels like it’s displaced straight from the playground, making the ensuing events feel like an unsettling tangible possibility. The descent from jesting – albeit cruel – to near madness, believing in a reality that they’ve created for themselves, spurred on by a gas-lighting leader, and the atrocities they become complicit in, is like a spool that unravels slowly and is then dropped – shooting down out of control.

As Ralph, Lola Adaja is fantastic. She encapsulates his pompous cheerfulness, tinged with a streak of jealousy and desire to be liked, but equally guilt at doing what’s right, brilliantly. Kate Lamb as Jack, the notorious, blood-hungry anti-hero is phenomenal too – she creates a character so intensely dislikeable that it’s almost impossible to believe. Her movements, too, in her beloved ‘dance’, are truly animalistic and haunting – her ascent to power and descent to evil is represented physically, making you flinch every time she takes the spotlight.

And, of course, there’s dear Piggy, given an absolutely incredible performance by Gina Fillingham. She’ll make you think of that child at school – who everyone really should’ve been a bit nicer to – and is the star of the show: endearing, desperate, tragic and, surprisingly, the only character who has the ability to inject humour into this otherwise dark and twisty piece of theatre.

The set, staging, lighting, and sound is incredibly clever and truly transformative, with lots of neat tricks and touches that keep you surprised. It’s brilliantly done. And, rather than disrupting the flow of the piece, the 20-minute interval feels a welcome break from the madness, and you’ll return to your seat wondering what more could possibly happen and whether you can bring yourself to watch. You will do, though, and you won’t be disappointed.

Reviewed on 18th October 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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