first night

Lord Of The Flies

Tom Harper reviews an adaptation of William Golding's dystopian classic.

Nerves were immediately high when, upon entering the Assembly Rooms to watch Fourth Wall Theatre’s unique take on William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the audience were greeted by each member of the cast clad in clear plastic suits, lying motionless onstage, thereby setting the tone for what proved to be an intense and thought-provoking evening. In Golding’s eponymous story, British schoolboys trapped on an uninhabited island attempt to rebuild their take on civilisation in fractious and violent ways, often losing their own civility in the process. Knocking down the traditional association of the play with a male cast, the narrative was seamlessly adapted by director Lydia Feerick to an all-female context, which added an intriguing dynamic between the characters that in no way inhibited their performance. Her choice to include scientists constantly overlooking the attempts of the characters to govern themselves also maintained a sinister and dystopian theme throughout the play, leaving the audience to consider the production as much a social experiment as a piece of theatre. Indeed, the combination of these factors, as well as the frequent use of the music of Muse (which was greatly appreciated) resulted in an intelligent and aptly-handled production, which pushed the boundaries of interpretation without straying too far from the grit and realism of the original plot, and for this it must be applauded.

Looking at the cast themselves, whilst there was the occasional fumbling of lines (an issue expected from the first night of any show), they were ultimately convincing in their portrayal as schoolchildren, maintaining their physicality and vocals throughout, both in the foreground and the background. Individual praise must be given to Annie Davison’s near-flawless portrayal of ‘Piggy’, who in spite of a rare lapse of accent excelled in the instability of the character, from the irregular readjustments of her glasses to the regular twitching of her toes. Similarly, the arrogance and toxicity of Elle Morgan-Williams’ ‘Jack’ also nicely complimented the empathy and maturity of Clementine Medforth’s ‘Ralph’, whose dynamic kept audience members on their toes from the play’s surrealist opening until its chilling ending. Special mention must also be made of Abigail Weinstock and Ambika Mod, whose comedic prowess shone through ability to rapidly finish the other’s sentences, allowing the play’s dark atmosphere to be appropriately interspersed with poignant moments of expertly timed humour. On the other hand, whilst individuals regularly shone, the production often suffered from an overall lack of subtlety. Lively speeches were rarely complemented by more nuanced moments of the play wherein the tone could have been brought down, and several members of the ensemble resorted to shouting or over-acting where more controlled performances may have worked better. Although this perhaps complemented the unsettling chanting that permeated the play, on the whole it resulted in the energy of the production remaining on a similar level throughout, which diluted the impact of certain scenes. Moving beyond this, however, variety was certainly shown through the physical dynamism of those onstage, who in spite of their numbers never made the stage seem crowded.

Exploring the technical side of things, Elena Mychalekyj’s lighting and sound design was, for the most part, powerful and effective, mirroring the effort and thought put into costumes and advertising. Looking exclusively at sound effects, it must be noted that many were not appropriately timed, however (just as with the exploding bulb that threatened to upset the show) these were always professionally handled by those both onstage and off, and on balance had little impact on the flow of the performance. Overall, the cast of Fourth Wall Theatre’s latest production must be congratulated on what was undoubtedly a gripping and provocative piece of theatre. Lord of the Flies perhaps requires the occasional crease to be ironed out, yet ultimately the fire of the piece was kept alive by its fantastic cast and crew.

9 June 2016

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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