Review: Lord of the Flies

Hattie Peachey 22 June 2012

Lord of the Flies

Sidney Sussex Tennis Court Garden, 8pm, until Sun 24th June

‘Lord of the Flies’ is really brilliant. Unfortunately, as with Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’, Golding’s classic novel has been given the GCSE treatment, analysed and Yorknoted to within an inch of its life. This aside, it is not difficult to see why the story, with its thought-provoking analysis of power-structures and ethical codes, has a powerfully accessible nature. Nigel Williams’ adaptation for stage slotted curiously well into the Sidney Sussex gardens, strewn as they were with banana leaves and fires burning.

The production was timed beautifully – darkness fell over Cambridge as it fell over the island and beasts prowled. Ghoulishly lit by fires, the inexpensive set became eerily effective. Though at times inaudible, especially as last night’s event was still being dismantled, the cast did a tremendous job at carrying their voices across the garden to a full and enraptured audience. With the exception of a few first night technical hiccups and muddles, this was streets ahead of most small productions.

Sometimes it’s a little difficult to imagine student actors into serious, ‘adult’ roles, so the boyish charm of Ralph (Alex Gomar) worked really well. The cast not long, as with all of us, out of their school uniform seemed to understand or at least be able to represent the psychology behind schoolyard hierarchies, at least enough to make the audience question the way we come to establish leaderships and what is, to use Piggy’s words, ‘right’. The casting of Anna Isaac as Piggy was a strange but excellent choice – she managed to perfectly balance the right level of comedy, stupidity and inherent goodness in the face of cruelty and bullying. By contrast, the excellently prissy Jack (Lucy Farrett) turned from the stuck-up prefect to the bloodthirsty savage with believable and convincing energy that never bordered on farce. Ami Jones as Simon again counterbalanced Farrett’s strident performance.

For a vegetarian such as myself, the real-life slain boar was a bit disturbing and a little unbearable, but added to the vicissitude of the play. It is difficult to say much more without revealing more of the plot, but this was an incredibly intelligent production which certainly left me thinking, what is intelligence worth if we behave like savages? And who decides what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s good and what’s bad? Theatre at its most intelligent always prompts such questions.

Hattie Peachey