Review: Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies
Image credit: Johan Persson

You probably did it at GCSE. You may have seen the film. You might just be generally a bit cultured and know the plotline of such an over referenced member of the popular literary canon.  I, on the other hand, went along to the Regent’s Park Theatre touring adaptation of William Golding’s lauded 1954 novel with – shamefully - almost no awareness of what was to come. Using the play as my first introduction to the tense, symbolic and deeply political narrative I suppose I had the advantage of being a blank canvas observer and came at the performance with ready to be entertained. And it proved to be a truly explosive experience from the very outset. 

Acclimatised to the DIY vibe of most student theatre, it was refreshing, and albeit slightly disconcerting, to see a professional scale show on a Cambridge stage. Following a run in the company’s own open air theatre, a cavernous Corn Exchange provided the perfect backdrop to a production that pulled no punches in re-dramatising what is, for many, a definitive portrayal of adolescent masculinity, anarchy and human nature. The imposing creation of the desert island featured the back end of what appeared to be a BA 747, deep and eerily lit vegetation and pyrotechnics a plenty. It was clear that director Timothy Sheader wanted to craft something cinematic and the surprisingly powerful use of slow-mo in particularly intense scenes overlapped with an epic score from Nick Powell which only added to the inherent tension of the story.

Set in the modern day and peppered lightly with perhaps unnecessary social media and selfie-stick references, the young cast dealt with the frantically paced show; Anthony Roberts was a memorably fragile Piggy and Luke Ward-Wilkinson (Wild at Heart) believably presented the earnest Ralph as he navigated the shocks and strains of trying to do the ‘right’ thing. Stand out performances came from child actor David Evans as Perceval, whose innocence and compliance pierced through the often violent and bloody of the older members as a reminder of the ‘animalistic’ behaviour and Freddie Watkins (Nativity!) was a fierce and manic Jack. 

The emphatic moments later in the play in which the full ensemble were choreographed to cross and overlap together on stage, despite geographical and ideological factions, proved to be an effective use of space aswell as a dynamic repeated motif which seemed to underline the boys’ polarised yet confused reactions to the desertion. And no, I didn’t take that from SparkNotes, although it was endearing to see many a notepad-clad 15 year old in attendance with their parents; the Exchange a break from the CamDram bubble in the centre of the city, and surely the only venue that could handle such an epic production.

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