Written by William Golding
Adapted by Nigel Williams
Directed by Amy Leach
Leeds Playhouse and Belgrade Theatre Company co-production with Rose Theatre
Written in 1957 and a GCSE English staple for generations this production could be, at best a useful adaptation for students and schools to schedule into the curriculum. In the hands of a skilled and creative director like Amy Leach it thankfully translates as a provocative and cautionary tale for the 21st century. The casting by Lucy Casson is really excellent, replacing a traditional group of schoolboys with a genuinely diverse cast that all work together to create a terrifyingly believable bunch of kids stranded alone on an island. As with any really excellent horror you may know what’s coming next but it’s dramatic impact repeatedly hits with a fresh sucker punch!
Max Johns’ set evokes elements of a lush tropical island; yet there is a darkness to the towering palm trees and the pale cliffs evoke an inner city skate park that might just be threatened by rival gangs. Leach jettisons her characters unto stage with a mighty jolt and a deluge of crash debris falls from the sky. Friendships are formed and reformed in seconds as some of this bunch of traumatised kids seek to find order and security while others revel in the new found freedoms of a world without family or schools. This cautionary tale of power struggles between good and evil, order and anarchy, and morality and immorality is as relevant now as nearly 70 years ago. It is no less shocking and perhaps more genuinely frightening in our modern world where knives and bullets are easily come by and our seeming capacity to see threat in “other” is alarmingly prevalent.
This disparate bunch of children from different schools pick a leader in Ralph who Sade Malone plays beautifully as a good all rounder who has a natural exuberance and an innate sense of fairness. Her role as leader is threatened by the gangly, arrogant Jack who Patrick Dineen embodies with all the elitist, self- aggrandisement of an Oxford Bullingdon boy. Neuro diverse actor Adam Fenton shines as the ticcing, epileptic Simon and Jason Connor gives a skilled performance as the wise Piggy who is likable yet annoying. Deaf actors Ciaran O’Breen and Eloise Pennycott bring a lot to this production with their comedic timing and expressive physicality. Jason Battersby gives a stand out performance as Roger who revels in the pain and misery of others. This is a chilling watch as Battersby gives his Roger a nihilistic stance as the quiet onlooker who quickly becomes a sadistic sociopath swaggering across the stage and dispassionately murdering Piggy.
Theatre programming that brings curriculum pieces to life on stage is crucial to widening learning opportunities and breaking down preconceptions and threshold anxiety for the next generation of theatre lovers. It is also sensible bread and butter programming for increasingly cash strapped theatres. Thankfully this Lord Of The Flies production achieves all the above but with the addition of being a genuinely elevated piece of theatre. Amy Leach and a talented team of cast and creatives have produced something really fresh and relevant that inspires and provokes.
At Leeds Playhouse until 8 April, then at Rose Theatre , Kingston, 18-22 April; Belgrade Theatre , Coventry, 25-29 April; and Northern Stage, Newcastle, 3-6 May.