LORD OF THE FLIES
The Old Rep, Birmingham, Thursday 26th April, 2018
It can be difficult, when your class of students is entirely female, to find suitable material for performance. Director Jade Allen tackles this problem by taking a play she wants to put on and giving the characters a gender swap. And so William Golding’s all-male story (via Nigel Williams’s adaptation) is given a twist – a plane-load of schoolgirls crashes onto a deserted island – rather than having the actresses play as male (which would have been interesting in itself).
It works. Mostly. Some of the time I can’t escape the idea that this is St Trinian’s doing Castaway but there are some excellently-realised moments that deliver the power of the original tale. It begins with a stylised movement sequence as the girls are jolted through air turbulence before the crash itself – and then the screaming starts! This should be used sparingly, I think, otherwise proceedings take on the air of a Justin Bieber concert.
Emily Taylor warms into her role as elected leader ‘Raffy’, while her rival Jack (Hennesha George) has her moments too – some of them snide, some of them menacing. Anyone who has taught secondary school will tell you, you are never more than a couple of steps away from savagery – and there is plenty of schoolgirl bitching and bullying to go around here.
Emma Hackett and Emma Howes make strong impressions as twins Erin and Sam, although their completion of each other’s sentences could do with speeding up. Megan Davies adds a touch of humour as Marie, goofing around, while Sophie Keeble’s Rowena is a thoroughly nasty piece of work. Amani Khan makes a convincing enough oddball as Simone, while Beth Townsend’s Piggy, the voice of civilisation, has impassioned moments – Piggy’s fate is cleverly staged. In fact, it is during the stylised moments that this production really hits the heights. Although the dance at the feast is not primal enough, being too controlled, too choreographed, it leads to one of the most horrific moments I’ve ever seen on stage, as the girls turn on ‘the beast’ in a frenzy of which the Bacchae would be proud.
Even though the action is somewhat cramped and the energy levels sag a couple of times, this makes for an interesting experiment and while it didn’t get me thinking about the thin veneer of civilisation (you know, the one that cracks as soon as you see something you disagree with on the internet) but of notions of casting in the theatre, and how relevant is a character’s gender to a piece?
1 Comment | tags: Beth Townsend, Birmingham, Emily Taylor, Emma Hackett, Emma Howes, Hennesha George, Jade Allen, Lord of the Flies, Megan Davies, Nigel Williams, review, Sophie Keeble, The Old Rep, William Golding | posted in Theatre Review
LORD OF THE FLIES
The REP, Birmingham, Tuesday 3rd November, 2015
Nigel Williams’s adaptation of the William Golding classic novel is bang up-to-date with references to Miley Cyrus and selfie-sticks but adheres to the book’s themes and tensions because they are eternal in their relevance. A group of young boys find themselves on a remote tropical island, having survived a plane crash. They have to work out what to do in order to survive and to be rescued. The thin veneer of civilisation is soon stripped away and things fall apart, descending into primitivism and savagery.
Director Timothy Sheader keeps the action tightly focussed, making sharp and efficient us of freeze-frames and cross-cutting so that the space can represent more than one location at the same time and the flow is not bogged down with characters trooping on and off. It’s fast-moving despite the confines of the stage. Throughout the carcass of the airplane features in a striking set by Jon Bausor, providing different levels and interiors as the story requires.
Luke Ward-Wilkinson is Ralph, the decent one, trying to keep democratic order. Smart and athletic, Ward-Wilkinson skilfully portrays a boy on the brink of adulthood, who knows enough to have a moral code but lacks the emotional immaturity to deal with the extreme situation he is in. His oppo is Jack (a strident Freddie Watkins) who only likes democracy when it works in his favour, shouting down any dissenting view, like Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions – and I haven’t even got to the pig’s head. Jack promotes fear and division through superstition, keeping his followers together with mindless chanting and violence. Watkins makes him a thoroughly nasty piece of work, pompous and self-important, and, at the end, reminds us that Jack is still a child.
In contrast to all the plummy, private school voices, there is Anthony Roberts as Piggy, whose Northern tones appeal for order and fair play. He has victim written all over him. Imagine John Prescott stumbling into a nest of Bullingdon Club bullies. Piggy is the conscience of the group and is therefore ridiculed, tormented and ultimately silenced.
Dylan Llewellyn’s Henry brings a touch of schoolboy humour, lowering the tone with toilet references in an energetic performance – in fact, the whole company expends a great deal of energy and emotional intensity as they run around in their underpants. Keenan Munn-Francis makes a strong impression as doomed oddball Simon, and Thiago and Fellipe Pigatto give sensitive and strong performances as identical twins Sam and Eric. But it is little Perceval who almost steals every scene he’s in, played with clarity and vulnerability by David Evans.
Even if you know the story, the second act is especially gripping, thanks in no small part to Kate Waters’s fight direction and Nick Powell’s sound score. Scenes in which the boys whip themselves up into Bacchic ecstasy are especially terrifying. Beneath every school uniform beats the heart of a savage!
An exciting and thought-provoking production of Golding’s assessment of human behaviour, very well staged and realised. Top marks, boys; gold stars all around.
Freddie Watkins as Jack (Photo: Johan Persson)
Leave a comment | tags: Anthony Roberts, David Evans, Dylan Llewellyn, Fellipe Pigatto, Freddie Watkins, Jon Bausor, Kate Waters, Keenan Munn-Francis, Lord of the Flies, Luke Ward-Wilkinson, Nick Powell, Nigel Williams, review, The REP Birmingham, Thiago Pigatto, Timothy Sheader, William Golding | posted in Theatre Review