Image courtesy of Johan Persson.
William Golding’s classic novel Lord of the Flies has been masterfully adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams. The story bursts into life with flames and war cries on the Festival Theatre stage; the young cast’s energy rivalled only by a truly breath-taking set.
The tale, following a group of school boys who find themselves stranded on a desert island after a plane crash, is a classic exploration of the true nature of humanity, ultimately painting a fairly dark and pessimistic picture. Despite their initial attempts to keep order, they gradually lose sight of the rules, and power struggles result in rifts forming between the group. The boys descend into savage chaos, losing the battle between civility and the call of the wild. Regardless of whether this is an accurate depiction of human nature, the story lends itself brilliantly to the stage.
More to the point, it is the stage itself that is the making of this production, filled by a truly awe-inspiring set. A smoking plane wreckage covers most of the space: with the destroyed body on one side and a disembodied wing on the other. A dimly lit forest retreats into the background, and a beach slopes down to the feet of the audience. The overall effect is one of fantastic depth, with Timothy Sheader’s direction making use of every inch of it. Leaping effortlessly around the plane and scrambling up piles of tumbling luggage, the boys transform the set into every part of the island, and very little imagination is needed in order to feel utterly immersed.
The cast was excellent, with Matthew Castle’s quietly chilling ‘Roger’ and Anthony Roberts’ desperate ‘Piggy’ delivering stand out performances. The youthful energy of the whole ensemble makes for an interesting juxtaposition when balanced with the darker side displayed by some characters. Manipulative actions are skilfully contrasted with flashes of childish insolence. The group work well together and make excellent use of elements of choreography. Shouting and stomping their feet, surrounded by fire and smoke, the boys are truly wild, their school uniforms in tatters. Slow motion sections work well to highlight violent moments, chillingly accompanied by young boys singing choral music.
Sporadic references made attempted to bring the story forward into the modern day. However, given the timeless nature of the themes in Golding’s writing, these attempts seemed somewhat redundant. Other than generating laughter, bringing little value to the show.
Nevertheless, this did little to detract from what was a vibrant and gripping performance. The production is well worth catching as it continues its tour of UK for the remainder of the year.