There was something strangely topical about ‘Lord of the Flies’. Something of the Bellingham Club, David Cameron and a pig’s head, public schools boys and the power of the prefect. Assumed superiority giving young men the right to bully, even to take life.
In this excellent production, the stage of the Grand Opera House is transformed to the crash sight of a British Airways plane, it lies in pieces near the shore on a deserted island in the South Pacific. It’s war time and the plane has been shot down. We can see it has been sliced in half, one wing remains attached, there are still some seats in the cabin, luggage is strewn all around and huge tyres lie are nearby. As we take our seats the ‘smoke’ from the crash scene lingers in the air giving a mystical effect.
Once seated and filled with expectation a drum begins to beat, an un-heavenly choir of discordant voices, death screams and a single boy comes walking down a severed wing. And so begins William Golding’s story which has been brilliantly adapted for stage by Nigel Williams.
A group of schoolboys aged between 6 and 12 are thrown together, the only survivors. At first they cooperate with each other, a structure evolves whereby who ever holds the huge conch shell holds the floor and can make his speech and suggest plans for survival. It’s not long before there is a tussle between the boys for possession and the structure begins to break down.
There are three main protagonists, Ralph (Luke Ward-Wilkinson) a sensible mature young man, Piggy (Anthony Roberts) who is fair minded and loyal and Jack Merridew (Freddie Watkins) who believes it’s his right to be leader because he is a school prefect and of the ‘upper class’. However it’s Ralph who is elected by the group and shows genuine leadership. He respects Piggy, a working class boy who has intelligence, is thoughtful and reasoning but he’s over-weight, wears glasses and has asthma and so becomes the butt of jokes at the hands of the others.
But it’s Jack who dominates the story and the stage, he despises all Ralph stands for. Jack gets things done, he kills the pig for food but there is an underlying demonic twist to his brain and he delights in smearing the blood on his gangs faces, fashioning spears out of branches and hunting down the other boys; as chief of his tribe he and they are now transformed from public school boys to savages bent on killing in their blood lust. When Piggy is killed, the symbolic conch shell is smashed to pieces by one of Jack’s gang signalling the end of order and the beginning of anarchy.
Charming! Well, certainly challenging and fascinating to see the breakdown in the small society of children, the emergence of two gangs, goodies and baddies and how, when a rescue helicopter pilot arrives on the scene they all stand in line at his order, no longer a fighting band but little boys again, concave chests, slumped over and crying. Not a weak link in the cast, powerful sound and lighting and as someone said, ‘Wow, that’s some set.’
This is a vivid example of how in a short time you can build up something from nothing and how power in the wrong hands can threaten the stability of democracy.
Details at www.goh.co.uk
LORD OF THE FLIES
Grand Opera House
Until Saturday 26th September 2015