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Review of Lord of the Flies at Greenwich Theatre

Lazarus Theatre Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies

Perhaps the biggest shock when it comes to Lord of the Flies as far as this reviewer is concerned is that he’s only read the book: he’s never seen either the 1963 or the 1990 motion pictures. This production, interestingly, deploys gender-blind casting – here, this involves a partial reversal of the theatrical practice of men playing female roles that stretches back as far as ancient Greece. And in these days of equality and diversity, why not? But when Amber Wadey’s Ralph squares up to Nick Cope’s Jack, well, it’s not exactly fair – let’s just say there’s a reason why there are weight classifications in boxing, for instance.

I trust, given how much of a modern classic Lord of the Flies is, it’s really not too much of a spoiler to say the second half is even darker than the first. This is an adaptation that has remained largely faithful to Sir William Golding’s (1911-1993) text, at least in its salient points. This did, I admit, slightly catch me by surprise, given the Lazarus Theatre Company’s track record of reinterpreting familiar works of literature, setting them (for example) in a completely different era, and/or condensing a five-act Renaissance play into a straight-through without-interval ninety-minute show. The sort of energy and passion from their other productions comes through here too, a notable achievement given that the entire eleven-strong cast are making their Lazarus debut. There’s a palpable sense that Piggy (Luke MacLeod) really is being bullied, a point underlined by Jack’s early assertion that order can be maintained if the boys as a collective conduct themselves as though they were at school. That plan, of course, falls apart pretty quickly, in the absence of a school structure – stranded as they are having survived a plane crash on an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean (yep, that’s as specific as it gets) as part of a wartime evacuation programme, with no adults, for whatever reason, to act as responsible carer.

The dynamics remain, more or less, unchanged by seeing males and females together on stage – the characters are the same, as is the plotline: what would Lord of the Flies be like with an entirely female company? Yet another film, in production at the time of writing, is to feature exactly this. In my view, I imagine it would still be the same – changes would only really happen if the script is amended, and then there just might be something other than Lord of the Flies on stage instead.

Anyway, there is some striking relevance to be drawn from the play to today’s world, and some pertinent questions about obedience to authority, being a conscientious objector, and looking before leaping.

I can only assume Lord of the Flies continues to be a set text, given the large number of schoolchildren in the audience. Every night, as anyone who works in theatre will testify, is different – at the performance I attended, the only disturbances were from adult patrons. There’s something for almost everyone: siblings Sam (Nell Hardy) and Eric (Calvin Crawley) react remarkably differently to the same set of circumstances, and Simon (Benjamin Victor) furnishes the production with elegant lines that contrast brilliantly against Jack’s hunter-gatherer outlook.

The movement (Julia Cave) adds a lot to the atmosphere, where much irrational behaviour takes place in irrational circumstances. Despite knowing what would happen, the production came across, at various points, as startling, amazing and impressive. The set is far from lavish, befitting the sparse resources the characters have at their disposal. Brutally anarchic, this production is a vivid portrayal of what it can be like to be fully human. It ain’t the same as being fully humane.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

“What are we? Humans? Animals? Or savages?”
William Golding’s explosive 20th-century classic hits the stage in an all-new ensemble production. Eleven children, one island… an incredible adventure turns into a fight for survival.

Lord of the Flies sees the return of Lazarus Theatre Company to Greenwich Theatre after their five-star production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle in 2017, and will follow their revival of Edward II here in January.

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies
13th to 24th March 2018
Greenwich Theatre
https://www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk/

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