Lord of the Flies
Adapted by Nigel Williams from the book by William Golding
Pilot Theatre are currently touring Nigel Williams' adaptation of Golding's disturbing novel about a group of boys stranded on a deserted island.
From the point when the beautifully sung opening hymn changes strikingly into the powerful physicality of the plane crash, you know it is only the beginning of a rough ride. Director Marcus Romer has us lunging from one emotional extreme to another: one minute calm, the next an asylum of unchecked nascent testosterone.
But of course the point is not about emergent machismo but about the barbarity that underlies human nature and the vulnerability of the mores that keep it in check. The scene where Ralph and the others have joined in the high jinks initiated by Jack and his tribe, and the speed with which the action is transformed into the fatal persecution of Simon, reflects the rapidity with which civilisation can disintegrate.
Davood Ghadami is Ralph, the boy elected as leader on a mandate of shelter- and fire-building and making the most of it until rescue comes. Ghadami expresses Ralph's transition from boy to adulthood with such sincerity that we really feel for him in his bewilderment as things come crashing down around him; Ghadami's Ralph is tragic not pathetic in his defeat.
Ralph's nemesis Jack is played by Mark Knightly who takes his character from the spiteful Choir Prefect to the maniacal caveman dictator. Knightly is energetic and imbues Jack with the zeal and determination of those who know they are right because they cannot not contemplate the alternatives.
Dominic Doughty is wonderful as the physically inept Piggy who shows his true strengths in the second act. His rendition of Piggy's unflinching support of Ralph, born of desperation and loyalty and his conviction that "what's right is right" is genuinely moving.
The boy Simon is clearly placed as the outsider by the writing. Tony Hasnath's affecting performance gives him sensitivity without making him weak, and his physical skills provide one the shows most haunting tableaux when his beaten body falls and is left to hang upside down.
One of the great strengths of this production is the music - composer Sandy Nuttgens has provided a musical backdrop that evokes places and times as well as emotions and does much to heighten our reactions. The lighting design by James Farncombe also makes an extremely effective contribution.
Truth be told, the story has been pared down somewhat to accommodate the cast size and there are some casualties such as the sub-theme of responsibility for the "littluns", but this play maintains the thrust of the original novel and packs as strong a punch. There is also something freakily scary about the novel's prescience - who could have imagined the unthinkable acts that children are capable of perpetrating - and that it could speak with such contemporary relevance some forty years after its publication.
"Lord of the Flies" runs at the Unicorn Theatre until Saturday, 7 March.
Including one interval it lasts two hours and is suitable for age 10 plus
Cecil Boys reviewed this production in York on 2008
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti