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Lord of the Flies

by on 31 January 2019

Lamenting the Lost Childhood of the World

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding, adapted by Nigel Williams

Barricade Arts Theatre at OSO Arts Centre, Barnes until 2nd February, then TIE tour to Madrid until 11th February

A review by Celia Bard

William Golding wrote this play in the aftermath of World War II. When first reading this novel, I found it hard to conceive the notion of children resorting to savagery in the way as described in the book, hunting other children with intent to slaughter. That reality, sadly, is a recognisable aspect in the lives of many young people in twenty-first Century Britain today. Although bullying and such like behaviour has always gone on, its scale and severity, particularly in knife crime and social media bullying, has increased and has certainly become more visible in ways that could not be envisaged when the novel was written.

Influenced by his own experience of War and his disillusionment with prevailing attitudes in the 50s, Golding was able to visualise the worst in human nature and believed that in certain circumstances so called decent people could be easily led to act in terrible ways. The novel is a metaphor and provided Golding with the means to explore conflicting impulses that individuals have towards society when required to live by conflicting and different sets of rules.

As in the novel, the play tells the story of a group of British schoolboys marooned on an isolated tropical island after being shot down in a plane whilst being evacuated from a war raging in Britain. The boys believe that a cataclysmic event, namely the dropping of an atom bomb, has happened. With no adults on the scene, the boys have to fend for themselves. Free from the restraining voice of adult authority and rules, the boys descend into savagery. The boys splinter into two groups, one group led by Jack who wants to be ‘top dog’ and lead by coercion and violence, and Ralph who believes in living by a set of rules, but those which involve living peacefully and in harmony with each other.

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This dramatic performance of Lord of the Flies by the Barricade Arts Theatre in Education actors is certainly high impact, an important element of the TIE concept, which aims to engage young audiences in educational drama initiatives often linked to school curriculum subject content. This small cast of actors is versatile, capable of playing multiple roles on a simple, representational set, sing and play instruments. They are also successful in exploiting the script through their carefully studied and thoughtful portrayal of characters, enabling an audience to see the effect of actions upon others. All characters in this performance of Lord of the Flies are played by adults, who are required to play 7-14 year olds and all of them are successful in their ability to capture the movement and mannerisms of that age group.

The set is minimalist with just enough to indicate that the characters are on an island. Two large rostra either side of the acting area are indicative of mountains, allowing actors to work at different levels. At other times the rostra become shelters or tents. Costumes consist of school uniforms, though not of the period. Sticks play an important role in this production. At times they are wings of an aircraft, spears used for hunting, wood to keep the fire burning, sticks for beating out different rhythms. One minor observation is that although characters kept commenting on how hot it was, it didn’t always feel hot and steamy as if they were in jungle. Orange-red lighting effects could perhaps have helped here?

The opening scene is highly imaginative. With just a few sticks, flashing lights and sound effects and well thought out choreography, the actors were able to simulate the shape of an aircraft being shot at and crashing onto an island. The use of the conch shell in this production is strongly symbolic, as it is in the novel. It symbolises authority, conflict, leadership, and a rallying cry. The gradual decline in its use highlights the breakdown of social cohesion in the group. Although the struggle for leadership appears to be between Jack and Ralph, it is Piggy who in many ways is the real leader. The dynamics between the three actors who plays these roles is beautifully realised, the tension between them is taut and painful.

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Harry Lukakis plays the character of Piggy with great sensitivity. It is really easy to empathise with him on several occasion, as when Ralph tricks him into telling him his nickname and then betrays him by letting on this knowledge to the whole group. The scenes when he is robbed of his glasses and walks about the stage blindly is wonderfully acted, as is his movement and vocal reaction when forced over the cliff.

The tension between Jack and Ralph is palpable and powerful. Jack as portrayed by Elizabeth Mason gives a convincing performance: domineering and ruthless in endeavours to be leader and to gain and maintain control: if they don’t conform, they don’t survive!

Ralph, played by Joseph Clayton, gives a totally believable performance, presenting a multi-faceted portrayal of this character. Although initially selected as a leader he is not secure in this role and cannot maintain control, he has doubts and is lost without Piggy.

Max Cadman in his role as Roger successfully captures the essence of this character: brawn, blindly following his leader without question: it doesn’t take him long to regress to savage roots ‘just following orders’.

flies1Hannah Marsters very successfully plays two characters, Simon and Eric, marked by a sharp difference in movement and voice between the two characters. The acting out of Simon’s fit is well studied. Sam as played by Rosa Garland gives a truthful performance. When loyalty to Ralph is put under pressure, he doesn’t waiver, pretends to submit to Jack but allegiance remains with Ralph.

Jonny Danciger as director and composer succeeds in bringing this story of Lord of the Flies very much alive. The tension is palpable, and it moves at a good pace which slows when important issues are highlighted. The director’s and actors’ interpretation of this story very much fits the modern world. It is a sobering thought to realise how quickly rules of society and the veneer of socialisation can break down, leading to anarchy and violence when conflict cannot be settled through rational debate and discussion.

Celia Bard
January 2019

Photography by Sarah Wright

From → Drama, Reviews

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