★★★★ Ferocious energy
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh – until 17 October
Then touring until March 2016
Reviewer: Susan Lowes
“Ferocious energy”: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre positively tears through the stage at the Festival Theatre as its Lord of the Flies leaves a trail of destruction in its wake.
Adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams, this production of William Golding’s classic novel is thrilling, energetic and dynamic. Director Timothy Sheader positively excels in transporting the audience directly onto the desert island, where a group of schoolboys are the only survivors of catastrophic plane crash.
The set is remarkable. From the carcass of the plane that has been ripped to shreds, to the wing that serves as both shelter and hazard, to the extended beach that invades the front rows of the stalls, Jon Bausor has designed every element to be incredibly intricate, interactive and purposely functional.
This level of detail is replicated within the choreography of the production, which at times is so cleverly controlled by the cast that there is a dance-like quality to even the random movements. The innovative use of space, light and sound complements the choreography to depict the descent from schoolboy adventure to fight for survival.
Golding’s novel is a horrific examination of the self. Exploring and questioning whether an innate savagery exists within each of us. Will this savagery surface when the constraints of society are removed and a group identity takes over? This production manages to capture this essence evocatively, contrasting nicely between order and chaos; between controlled and uncontrolled.
the darker edge to humanity
The talented young cast too are compelling and convincing, depicting the divide. Rational and fair elected charismatic leader Ralph and the whining, yet loveable Piggy, played by Luke Ward-Wilkinson and Anthony Roberts lead the side for civilisation.
While the increasingly cruel and barbaric Jack (Freddie Watkins) leads the hunters into a frenzy as he wholeheartedly represents the savagery. Even Guy Abrahams as the baby of the group, Perceval, is haunting as he shows the darker edge to humanity. The final result is terrifying as the production progresses and the pack mentality emerges.
Freddie Wakins and Luke Ward-Wilkinson as Jack and Ralph. Photo: Johan Persson
However, unfortunately the production fails to wholly convince. There are parts within that jarr and undermine the beautiful, ferocious energy that the production and cast manage to almost effortlessly create.
Sheader has woven small details into the piece that set it firmly within the present day. As the boys initially explore their surroundings, they use their selfie sticks to take photos, they search for their 3G coverage, they know how to survive because they’ve seen I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. And yet, set alongside other aspects of Golding’s 1954 text, these details contradict the boys’ naivety that brings the juxtaposition between the constrained and the savage to life.
The boys are after all, good British boys who are decent and can be expected to act in a certain way. Except Golding’s version of a British schoolboy is not the version of a schoolboy that exists today. Their inability to set their survival knowledge into motion, their incomprehension of the severity of their situation and their total reliance on a passing ship to save them belies their modern day setting.
While these details are small, they do manage to detract from the atmosphere so convincingly created by what seems to be every other aspect of the production. Which is a shame, because this visual and emotional assault on the senses could be truly exceptional.
Running time: 2 hours (including interval)
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Tuesday 13 to Saturday 17 October 2015
Daily: 7.30pm; Matinees: Thurs: 1pm, Saturday: 2.30pm
Details and tickets: http://www.edtheatres.com/flies
Lord of the Flies on Tour:
Tue 13 – Sat 17 Oct
0131 529 6000
Tue 20 – Sat 24 Oct
Hall For Cornwall
Tue 3 – Sat 7 Nov
0121 236 4455
Tue 10 – Sat 14 Nov
0114 249 6000
Tue 17 – Sat 21 Nov
01494 512 000
Tue 24 – Sat 28 Nov
Bord Gais Theatre
0818 719 377
Tue 1 – Sat 5 Dec
0843 208 6010
Tue 12 – Sat 16 Jan
Tue 19 – Sat 23 Jan
0844 871 7651
Tue 26 – Sat 30 Jan
Tue 2 – Sat 6 Feb
0151 709 4776
Tue 9 – Sat 13 Feb
0116 242 3595
Tue 23 – Sat 27 Feb
Warwick Arts Centre
024 7652 4524
Tue 1 – Sat 5 Mar
Tue 8 – Sat 12 Mar
08448 11 21 21
Tue 15 – Sat 19 Mar
08448 717 620