Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

The Right Story at the Right Time

Lord of the Flies

Theatr Clwyd & Sherman Theatre , Sherman Theatre , October-23-18
Lord of the Flies  by Theatr Clwyd & Sherman Theatre “Why's it all girls?” It is a reasonable question from the Year Nine-er in Row I, whose class is halfway through reading the book. He gets a couple of adult-standard replies. Creative people like to do something different. Gender dominates the agenda of mass media and social media. The physiological differences are known- women have a more rapid neuronal transfer across the corpus callosum- but the facts of psychological difference are less certain. A group of women in similar circumstances would imaginably do similar things.

There are other reasons. WNO celebrated the centenary of the first women's suffrage with an all-female company. So it is good that two premier companies, in conjunction, do the same. And it is good, most of all, that ten women actors, aged thirty and below, get the gig. Gender parity needs a speeding-up.

Nigel Williams' script has been proven at the RSC. It wastes no time in establishing situation and action. William Golding's schoolchildren are in escape from a home country under aerial attack. In this, they are the same as C S Lewis' four adventurers into Narnia. Both authors' books have allegorical overtones and occupy thematic territory that overlaps. In Narnia an order of cruelty is replaced by one of beneficence. On his tropical island setting Golding recapitulates the genesis of civil order.

The world of human knowledge has no relation to that of the time of his writing. It is now established that in Neanderthal society life expectancy was thirty years. Despite that forty percent of deaths were due to violence at the hands of other humans. “Lord of the Flies” follows briskly the route to this societal condition.

Food and fire take priority, shelter a lesser need in this setting. The reification of an Other is deep within the human psyche. In this story the Lucifer-substitute is the Beast, whose attributes grow ever greater in the telling and the retelling. And there is the drive to make art. After the kill and the food, the leader's command is that there shall be dance. A conch shell is given the symbolic attribute of leadership. Ritual, ceremony and cosmology all emerge, all being innate.

Beneath it is the drive for order, stratification the underpinning for social stability. The ten characters are economically established. The directorial use of body posture and movement is excellent. Sam and Eric are low status because of age, Piggy on account of physical difference. She looks back to the early days “when we had rules.” Every era sees in every enduring story the mirror image to suit itself. The rules outside appear to be under stress. Civility is fracturing within the anonymity that the screen offers. The House of Commons may well be unable to exert the sovereignty it has practised for centuries. The integrity of the Union is again up for question. In its narration of the collapse of order “Lord of the Flies” is a story for an age of anxiety.

But then theatre mixes the making of individual meaning within communal experience. No audience is fired by ideas. Bald allegory makes for the dreariest of theatre. This audience loves this production to the extent that it rises to its feet. It has rhythm and drive, the occasional line that prompts a laugh, a faithful adherence to the novel that ascends to wildness and horror. The production is well-served by James Perkins’ four-level design that encompasses beach, forest and mountain.

The young cast have had benefit not just of director Emma Jordan but of movement director Liz Ranken and fight director Bethan Clark. The company includes assistant director Jesse Briton. Briton, it may be remembered was the director behind the scintillating “Hiraeth” that played and played. No favourites among the cast, their achievement is that of an ensemble. They are Lola Adaja, Hannah Boyce, Matthew Bulgo, Gina Fillingham, Lowri Hamer, Lowri Izzard, Mari Izzard, Kate Lamb, Olivia Marcus, Laura Singleton and Leah Walker.

2018 has turned out to be the most unexpected of years for Wales' theatre. Some reputations have ascended, the two companies for this vivid production in the lead.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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