Matthew Bourne has never been afraid to try something new, remember the all-male Corps De Ballet in Swan Lake? But, even for him, Lord of the Flies is a bit of a leap into the unknown. Not many companies would have the temerity to present the paying public with a show that is based on a classic novel, and danced by a cast largely recruited from the youngsters of the area where it is being staged. Now, I have to be honest here. Unlike many schools, the one I went to didn’t force me to read ‘Lord of the Flies’ for my ‘O’ Levels (yes, I’m that old), so when I found out this was the book being staged, I immediately went out and read the original. I honestly thought it was one of the worst books I’ve ever read. So unbelievably bad, I actually had to force myself to finish it.
So now we have an interesting combination, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures team (9 professional dancers and a host of enthusiastic ‘amateurs’ under the choreography of Scott Ambler) and a truly awful story. How was this going to end? Well, the tour around the UK which started back in April got rave reviews, and finally we got to see it in London as the show opened at Sadler’s Wells.
The story has been updated from the original. Instead of the kids being marooned on an island, they are locked in a deserted theatre and, as in the book, left to their own devices with no adult supervision. The action has definitely moved from the 1950s to the modern day and there is a lovely scene as the kids try to get a signal on their mobile.
After foraging for food, snacks and crisps from the usher’s stores, it doesn’t take long for anarchy to break out as the ‘big-uns’ vie for power. Ralph (Sam Archer) and Jack (Danny Reubens) really dance their hearts out trying to convince the other children to follow them; and this, along with the half-marched, half-danced opening scene, really give the audience an idea of how the show will play out. The score, by New Adventures stalwart Terry Davies, is excellent at intensifying the mood and drawing the audience in to the action on stage, even when it is at its most gruesome. The set is not over-complicated and, along with Chris Davey’s superb lighting design, used to great effect by the dancers. Although the professionals danced all of the major parts, the ensemble of 24 locally recruited novice dancers, was just amazing. The enthusiasm of the group, aged between 10 and 25, swept over the stage and out into the audience in waves. But it wasn’t just an enthusiastic performance, it was obvious that a lot of hard work had gone in to prepare these boys for the show, and I think there really were some potential ‘Billy Elliot’ types on that stage tonight.
Ultimately, the test of a show like this is, does it work? The answer, for me is a definite yes! Layton Williams was sublime as Simon, especially in his dance with the ‘pig men’ and Sam ‘n’ Eric were wonderfully danced by Luke Murphy and Philip King, moving together almost as one throughout the show. As with all Matthew Bourne’s work, it needs to be seen more than once, as so often while the main action is going on in the centre of the stage, characters are interacting at the sides, and those interactions will form the basis for the next scene. Altogether, despite the fact that the original story is exceptionally dull, I really liked this production. It had me fixated on the stage from the moment we sat down, and managed to make me care about the children’s predicament, something I never did when reading the book, and also wonder exactly what would happen if this had been a group of adults put into the same position.
Is it as good as some other New Adventures shows? Possibly not, but it should be judged as the unique experiment it is, and in that, it is a complete success.
Review by Terry Eastham
The Lord of The Flies
With a cast of New Adventures dancers and extraordinary young talent, selected from each region, Golding’s legendary characters Ralph, Piggy, Jack and the boys will be brought to life with raw energy and emotional intensity.
Devised and directed by Olivier and Tony award winner Matthew Bourne, choreographed by Olivier nominated Scott Ambler and featuring set and costume design by Olivier Award-winner Lez Brotherston , music by Terry Davies, lighting design by Chris Davey and sound design by Paul Groothuis.
This production is supported by Arts Council England, the Arts Council of Wales in addition to other major trusts and donors. Originally commissioned by Glasgow Theatres, part of Ambassador Theatre Group.
LORD OF THE FLIES 2014 TOUR
2nd – 5th APRIL – SALFORD, LOWRY THEATRE
30th APRIL – 3rd MAY – PLYMOUTH THEATRE ROYAL
14th – 17th MAY – BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME
28th – 31st MAY – INVERNESS EDEN COURT
11th – 14th JUNE – GLASGOW THEATRE ROYAL
27th – 30th AUGUST – ABERDEEN HIS MAJESTY’S THEATRE
10th – 13th SEPTEMBER – LIVERPOOL EMPIRE
24th – 27th SEPTEMBER – CANTERBURY MARLOWE THEATRE
8th – 11th OCTOBER – SADLER’S WELLS
22nd – 25th OCTOBER – WALES MILLENNIUM CENTRE, CARDIFF
5th – 8th NOVEMBER – NEWCASTLE THEATRE ROYAL
19th – 22nd NOVEMBER – NORWICH THEATRE ROYAL
3rd – 6th DECEMBER – BRADFORD ALHAMBRA
Friday 10th October 2014