Review – Lord of the Flies: A world at war, and a rage within
William Golding’s tale gets a cosmetic update, and drags its colonial baggage with it
Venue: Bord Gais Energy Theatre
Date Reviewed: November 24th, 2015
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin
Stranded on an island in the wreckage of a plane crash, with no adult supervision, a fragile sense of democracy and only a conch shell to maintain order, the British schoolboys of William Golding’s famous story now encounter a new threat to their civility, if not their very survival. There is no decent 3G signal to upload a group selfie. In Nigel Williams’s cosmetically updated adaptation, the descent into savagery already seems well underway.
This production from Regent’s Park Theatre, originally conceived for outdoor performance, certainly creates an impressive, vision-filling spectacle. A hyper-realistic shell of an airplane fuselage recedes into a hanging jungle, and the scattered debris provides a playing space somewhere between the remnants of society and the yawning chaos of nature. Jon Bausor’s design, much like the work of directors Timothy Sheader and Liam Steels, takes a very literal approach to this literary adaptation.
That doesn’t leave a lot of room to manoeuvre, in more ways than one. With an energetic ensemble gradually peeling away from the sober leadership of Luke Ward-Wilkinson’s Ralph and his unpopular advisor Piggy (Anthony Roberts) towards the atavistic frenzy of Connor Brabyn’s hunter Jack, the stage doesn’t easily accommodate the simultaneous action of intermingled sequences. It ensures a hurried pace, but easily becomes cluttered, as when Ralph and Jack have to step over the unconscious body of Kennan Munn Francis’s gentle Simon, for whom they are searching.
That could be intended as a sly signal of worse motives, but the show strives more towards dutiful presentation than any particular interpretation. Contemporary references are hammered home early, as though anxious to sell Golding’s relevance, but the boys still sound stranded in the early 1950s, with largely cut-glass enunciation, politely worded chants (“Kill the pig! Spill its blood!”) and preoccupations with spear-toting, dancing “savages” that smack of colonial fantasy. (The production’s liberal use of tribal drums and body paint follows suit.)
The story’s deeper considerations, however, will always be timeless: whether mankind turns instinctively to order or chaos, a dilemma poignantly distilled in Piggy’s late, tragic plea for fairness. Scenes of choreographed violence go someway towards an answer, slowing the boy’s brutal movements over the sounds of choral voices, to create something both alarming and sensational. The world is always at war, Golding knew, and it also rages within. Seeing its horrific consequences unfettered and unleashed might just keep us in check.
End Nov 28