Directors: Timothy Sheader &Liam Steel
Writer: Nigel Williams (based on the novel by William Golding)
Reviewer: Stephen M Hornby
A huge section of smouldering airplane fuselage dominates one side of the stage, the remnants of a wing sits on the other, the space in-between suggests a jungle and a beach. The set for The Lord of the Flies is redolent with dramatic potential and immediately invites the audience’s curiosity. The play itself, however, never quite lives up to the ambition of the set.
The tale of a group of elite schoolboys’ descent into savagery in the absence of adults and worldly restraints is clearly rich material. The boys act as metaphors for the battles between democracy and autocracy, between savagery and civility, and between the superego and the id.
These poles crystallise into the characters of Ralph, who becomes the first leader of the boys through an election, and Jack, who seizes control of a faction of the boys and dominates them through fear and power. The boys’ descent into violent conflict and primitivism is the body of the play’s narrative.
This stage adaptation was written at the beginning of the 1990s, and there are some unwise and unsuccessful attempts at crudely updating the script. At one point, the boys suddenly group hug to take a selfie and complain that there is no 3G. This suggests that the story is to be taken as present day, or near present day, yet the rest of script sits firmly in the vernacular of the 1950s. Either the story needs to remain when it was, or the script needs to be revised more thoroughly to actually feel like it was set in the 21st Century, which the ending especially does not. The script also suffers from moving action off stage and jumping a significant time period between acts. This misses out what is perhaps the most interesting part of the drama, the gradual descent into barbarism, and instead presenting it as a fait accompli.
This performance saw two major parts played by the understudies. Lee Rae as Piggy delivers a good performance as the ‘blind’ man who can really see their situation. Connor Brabyn is less successful as Jack, lacking charisma and conviction. Matthew Castle is far more menacing and genuinely wild as Roger. Luke Ward-Wilkinson is great as Ralph, capturing perfectly the shifting allegiances of the schoolyard in the opening scenes and Ralph’s descent into despair as his pathetic faction are terrorised by the other boys.
Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel as directors obviously had a big vision for this production. Perhaps in its original setting in Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, under the Heathrow flightpath, this worked. On a formal stage as a touring production, it is less successful. The set swamps the smaller parts of the action and the moves between locations within the one place are indistinct and confusing. The slow-mo device for key action points is also tired and occasionally clumsy in execution. This mid-tour point may be one where some of the choreography needs a revisit to tighten it up.
This production does capture some of the energy and savagery of the novel, but in casting older actors (perhaps inevitably given the restrictions on child actors) some of the shock of the novel is diluted. Perhaps an all-female production might have been an interesting way to create a fresh impact with the story. As it stands, this feels like a competent but somewhat dated production.
Runs until 5 December 2015 | Image: Johan Persson
More info: www.TheLowry.com