Lord of the Flies
Modern staging of Golding’s tale of savagery and barbarism opens in Coventry.
Adapting ‘Lord of the Flies’ for the stage is a challenge: the novel contains so much beautiful prose describing the island on which a group of British school children are stranded following an aeroplane crash. In Golding’s 1954 classic, an omniscient narrator takes us into the minds of the various characters, revealing their insecurities and flaws slowly as we get to know them. It’s perhaps why, despite strong performances across the cast and some visually arresting moments, this co-production between the Belgrade and Leeds Playhouse, directed by Amy Leach, is curiously unmoving.
The diversity of the cast does bring the story bang up to date, adding layers of complexity to the fraught relationships which develop as the group descend into violent chaos. Reimagining the elected chief Ralph as a girl throws misogyny into the heady mix and the racially diverse cast is far more representative of today’s audiences than Golding’s all-white group of privileged boys. The casting of several young disabled actors moves beyond token representation to highlight some of the challenges of communication explored in the story.
Sade Malone delivers a charismatic performance as Ralph, the elected leader who tries to maintain order on the island. She is likeable and decisive, a symbol of civilisation when order collapses. Jason Connor captures the vulnerability and insecurity of the bullied and oppressed as Piggy, the ultimate victim of the boys’ descent into brutality.
Head boy turned savage hunter Jack Merridew is brought to life in a performance of great physicality by Patrick Dineen, convincing in his rage and unsettling thirst for violence. Jason Battersby’s Roger bristles with sadistic energy and Adam Fenton provides some of the evening’s quieter and more poignant moments as the troubled, solitary Simon.
Max Johns’ set is no island paradise: the action plays out over a severe angular rock-like structure centre-stage. Abstract giant palm trees surround the stage suggesting the presence of both natural and unnatural forces. Haunting shadows project onto a backdrop of billowing white drapes: there is beauty and horror here.
Golding’s story is a fascinating and timeless one which continues to speak to new generations of readers and, through Nigel Williams’ adaptation, theatregoers. Despite flaws, this diverse, modern interpretation does an energetic job of keeping Lord of the Flies on the cultural map.
Lord of the Flies is playing at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry from 25th to 29th April 2023.