Sunday, 12 October 2014

Lord of the Flies - Sadler's Wells

I last read 'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding 38 years ago but the new stage production by Matthew Bourne and Scott Ambler brought it all back to life for me. 'Lord of the Flies' is the latest New Adventures production and is currently on tour around the UK and we caught it on its London stop at Sadler's Wells last week. It was surprisingly easy to follow the storyline and I even remembered the name of the lead character.

'Lord of the Flies' tells the story of a group of schoolboys abandoned on a desert island with no adults in sight and is the tale of their learning to survive. It's also the tale of their descent into tribalism and barbarity without the civilising influence of the adult world around them. When I read it as a teenager I was never sure whether it was a children's story or a story about children, and I'm still not. I suppose that's one of the beauties of the piece - what is it really about?  It's all terribly middle class and wonderfully energetic.

It begins with the boys (and men) coming on in school uniform and grey shorts, with angelic choir voices and military precision movements, all neat and tidy with the blazers and backpacks. It's downhill from there, of course, as clothes become worn and torn and discarded and the tribalism takes over. Boys will be boys and the fights and face-offs take over as they struggle to survive in a hostile environment with no adult guidance.

I well remember the woollen grey shorts the schoolboys wore and wore them myself until I started grammar school. I remember wearing long trousers when I was a child but had to wear those awful shorts for junior school.

We see Ralph trying to lead the boys in a reasonable way and struggling against the lads that bully and dominate. How can he do this? Ultimately, of course, he wins and he fails.

I loved the energy of the piece, with movement all over and never a dull moment, always something happening to watch and marvel at. I loved the wildness and the thoughtfulness and I loved seeing the non-professionals (I was going to say 'amateurs') on stage alongside the main dancers.

That's one of the really good things about this production. Since it needs boys of all ages it can't rely on a standard touring cast so it recruits local talent wherever it goes with about half the cast being recruited and trained specifically for the show. All these lads and young men joining a professional cast of dancers as part of an intense show must be an incredible experience for them and a wonderful thing to add to their CV. It must also be exhausting for the standing cast to work with a new set of colleagues in every city on the tour. But it works, and works well.

What a treat! It has finished it's London visit for now, but if you get the chance to see it I recommend that you do so. The production is on tour for a while yet so there are still plenty of opportunities to glory in this re-telling of a classic tale. The energy on stage alone is worth it!

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