REVIEW: LORD OF THE FLIES (Richmond Theatre)

It is always interesting to watch a show once it has been transferred from its original venue as it poses so many challenges to the creative team. Will there be enough stage space? Are the wings big enough? Is there a Nandos in the town? This applies especially when drastically changing venue as Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has done by taking their production of Lord of the Flies into traditional theatres such as Richmond Theatre.

For those of you who didn’t do Lord of the Flies at school, the plot follows a group of school boys who are marooned on a tropical island after their plane is shot down and how once free of authority they descend into savagery. Although the play is performed by young adults rather than children, this production loses none of the intensity and disturbing nature the original novel is known for.

There are splendid performances from the young cast, with Luke Ward-Wilkinson drawing us in as his likable and open Ralph. Anthony Robert’s Piggy is brilliantly updated from the original text and Freddie Watkins performs Jack as a bottle of pure spiteful malice. Unlike some interpretations of Lord of the Flies, Timothy Sheader’s direction brings out the humanity of the characters, rather than pigeonholing them as embodiments of good and evil. When reacting to the murder of another character, Sheader has his actors break out into different symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome, giving us a nurture rather than nature view point.

Jon Bausor’s set is outrageously good. Based around the wreck of an airplane and strewn with debris and jungle foliage, Bausor’s design invokes a sense of adventure which quickly turns sour and dangerous. His clever use of levels gives the actors free range of the stage and has the audiences’ eyes dancing and darting about as the action unfolds. Coupled with Nick Powell’s ominous score, Paul Keogan’s shifting light design and Avgoustos Psillas enveloping sound, this set is one of the best I’ve seen in the theatre.

Lord of the Flies is an absolutely first-class production. A testament to that is how at curtain up the school groups in the audience are shouting and distracted, but by the plays denouement they were focused so intently you could hear a pin drop. And if that isn’t the sign of a good show I don’t know what it.

Reviewed by Roz Carter
Photo: Johan Persson