Richly symbolic, The Lord of the Flies is brilliant

Review by Paul Nelson

IN ALL my years of going to the theatre at Wimbledon, I have never witnessed a more brilliantly staged play than the one currently on offer, Lord of the Flies.

Anyone who has read the book or is familiar with the film will realise that the story is rich in symbolism.

Ostensibly it is the story of a group of schoolboys marooned on a desert island who revert to being as savage as their forbears. It is implied that the condition is atavistic.

There are many ways of reading the story.

As for the symbolism, for the general purpose of the play I can tell you the following allegory.

We are on a small island peopled largely by English people. We are governed initially by a series of principles, though our leader, the one who is allowed to speak for our general good, is the one who is the possessor of an empty shell.

Little wonder the idealistic existence breaks down.

In this production the schoolboys are played by much more adult actors than you would assume having read the book. This, and there are only eight in the cast, is a distinct advantage, for though we believe they are schoolboys, their very manhood brings to the fore much more powerfully than could ever be achieved by the very young, the real danger of subversion and the even greater threat of following a leadership that is defiant of democracy.

Add to this cerebral reading of the adaptation the truly imaginative and absolutely spine-chilling impact of the production and you have not only a play to watch with extreme pleasure, but an evening rich in imagination which jerks you into the reality of events which may be just around the corner.

What William Golding, the author of the book, never knew, he died in 1993, was that his bleak warning is actually now, not ten years after his death coming true. The recent news items of carjacking, people being beaten unconscious in the streets and worse, are something he could only conjecture on in 1954 when the novel was published. He has been spared the nightmare he predicted.

The production of this adaptation has been painstakingly looked after. With fire and smoke, sound and a brilliant lighting plot, this touring version of the play is stunning.

Set around the remains of the crashed plane, the action is fast and frightening.

The cast is exemplary, not one weak performance ever tilts the taught sense of terror which begins with the opening of the play and rushes inexorably to its brutal and barbarous end.

Pilot Theatre Company does not need me to praise it, it has been lauded rightly enough for this and other productions.

However, I cannot let this notice go by without mention of Marcus Romer the director, who's imagination is brought to bear upon our senses, Nigel Williams the adapter, Ali Allen and Marise Rose, the set designers who create such an immense visual impact, and Gareth Coran-Williams the lighting designer.

To these I could add several members of the cast but the ensemble is such a cemented group effort that to pick out anyone would be an unreasonable gesture to the whole.

It is on tour, and anyone reading this who is out of London should be aware that it might well come to a theatre near you. As such, you would be mad to miss it.

Lord of the Flies adapted from the original novel by William Golding by Nigel Williams. Directed by Marcus Romer. Settings designed by Ali Allen and Marise Rose. Costumes designed by Jim O'Reilly. Original music and sound design by Sandy Nuttgens. Lighting designer Gareth Coren. Produced and presented by Pilot Theatre Company.
With Philip Dinsdale (Jack), Karl Haynes (Roger), Neville Hutton (Piggy), Simon Kerrigan (Sam), Glyn Morgan (Ralph), Neville Robinson (Simon), Ryan Simons (Eric), David Smith (Maurice).

The production is heading for:
Jersey Opera House, Gardner Arts Centre Brighton, Cliffs Pavilion Southend-on-Sea, Gateway Theatre Chester, Liverpool Playhouse Theatre.