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LORD OF THE FLIES – RICHMOND THEATRE, LONDON

Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding’s incisive study of mankind’s nature still has the power to send tremors, chills and also begrudging recognition down the spine over 60 years after it was released.

Adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams, and directed by Timothy Sheader, Lord of the Flies opens with both sound and fury as a plane crashes onto a paradisiacal island. Emerging out of the wreckage are two initial survivors, in the form of the preppy schoolboy Ralph (Luke Ward-Wilkinson) and an overweight, bespectacled boy going by the name of Piggy (Anthony Roberts).

After making a quick acquaintance with each other, they are soon joined by a grab-bag of other young boys, including a choir led by fiercely vocal and opinionated Jack (Freddie Watkins) and backed-up by an intimidating Roger (Matthew Castle). Unsupervised and left without any clear signs of rescue, divergent factions emerge as the boys attempt to structure their own society from scratch. Previous identities fall quickly away as the reality of island life hits hard and hits quickly with many plumbing the depths of savagery. And when words from little Percival (David Evans) claims to have seen a ‘Beast’ in the woods, fear spreads quicker than the unintentional forest fire that the boys conjure as a consequence of their ill-thought out first fire.

There are gentle touches in this version that prompt reference to a more modern setting (selfie stick, headphones and a more modern vernacular), but these do not negate from the potency of the source. Some of the action sections are pared down into slow-motion evoke a cinematic sweep; likewise to the ornate staging and utilisation of light.

An ever-present addition to school syllabuses, it is easy to see why it remains there; the question of order versus disorder; good versus evil; civilisation posed against savagery. It all prompts endless discussion and conjecture, so rooted is it in the fundamentals of who we are and what we can become. Its stature has only been enhanced in subsequent years through such social psychology studies as the one conducted by Milgram and also the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment.

Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest is brought to mind over the castigation of asthma-inflicted Piggy, who is evidently perceived as the weakest of the group. In fact, a glassless, visually impaired Piggy, with his sense of fairness, innate frailty and belief in rules bears all the metaphorical hallmarks of the rickety, imperfect thing that we call ‘democracy’. But, as Churchill once pointed out, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”.

Dazzling, as well as heavy with meaning, the truest notion that emerges from the tragic Lord of the Flies is that bloodlust is the dearest companion for a society without morals. For all involved, this touring production manages to overcome potential staging obstacles to create a fantastic and fully-realised take on a classic tale.

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Reviewed 19/01/16

By Greg Wetherall
@gregwetherall
19th – 23rd January 2016
Richmond Theatre, TW9 1QJ

 

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