Theatre Review - 'Lord of the Flies'

Posted on: 10 June 2011 by Alexander Hay

Laurence Green reviews the Regent Park adaptation of this dark classic

The beast within takes hold in Lord of the Flies

The Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park has become one of thr biggest annual fixtures on the cultural calender but this year evil lurks in the woods, flaming brands, blood-smeared faces, murder, and a stick sharpened at both ends, as its opening production takes on a darker note with Tim Sheader's imaginative staging of William Golding's ground-breaking and disturbing 1954 novel Lord of the Flies.

A group of schoolboys aged between six and twelve are accidentally stranded on a tropical island after their plane is shot down during wartime. The young survivors quickly tire of their Boys' Own adventure and factionalise, with some attempting to achieve and maintain order, and others descending into anarchy and savagery. So what began as adventurous, high-spirited play soon becomes a struggle for survival and violent tribalism as superstition and immorality sees the community slide into a darkly sinister world.

This is an allegory, infused with symbolism, on the nature of good and evil, the corruption of innocence and the defeat of the righteous, while also encompassing issues such as order versus disorder – how as humans we need to manage the conflicting instincts to live by by rules versus the instinct to act violently, to impose one's will and so obtain supremacy which is particularly pertinent today especially in countries like Libya and Syria. Indeed this is a work which reinforces the Bohhesian argument that evil triumphs in the absence of civilisation and rules.

First of all, let's get the flaws in the production out of the way – the first half is over-long and the descent into savagery seems to happen rather too quickly. But after the interval, the play drzaws us into this nightmare world and becomes truly gripping.

However, the biggest coup of the production is the brilliant set – a huge wrecked fuselage of a plane resting on an expanse of sand, with open suitcases and clothes strewn around, while one of the crashed aircraft's wheels lies on the ground and there is what looks like a large barrel on which fires are lit. Furthermore, the greenery of the park perfectly suggests the mysterious island on which this disparate group of schoolboys find themselves stranded.

Director Tom Sheader draws excellent performances from his young actors, many making their professional débuts. Most effective are George Bukhari as the plump, sensitive Piggy, who is bullied by the group, Alistair Toovey as the sensible, democracy-loving Ralph, and James Clay as the savage prefect Jack who turns feral and whose motto is “everything you kill makes you stronger.”

An unsettling, thought-provoking evening in the theatre.

By Laurence Green

Plays until June 18.

Box Office: 0844 826 4242

Press: The Corner Shop @ 0207 494 3665

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Alexander Hay

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