The Open Air Theatre nestled into a corner of Regent’s Park offers a unique portrayal of any dramatic work. But, in this environment, a dramatisation of William Golding’s haunting novel Lord of the Flies, manages to convey a brilliantly realistic, almost participatory piece of theatre.

The potential of the novel for presentation on the stage is actualised by Nigel Williams’s adaptation: the terrifying descent into barbaric paganism, once the regimented structure of the boys’ lives in England has dissolved, is complimented by swallows swooping across the set and the trees that envelope the theatre shuddering in the breeze. The cold night air chills the audience, but no more so than Jack’s cries of “‘Kill the pig. Spill his blood.”

…battle between playing the barbaric hunters or remaining sane…

In Williams’ adaptation, the inner “Beast” of humanity manifests itself in the juvenile minds of the schoolboys, abandoned on a remote island after a tragic aeroplane crash, in which all of the “grown-ups” perished. The consequent loss of innocence becomes more compelling through the decision to cast young boys in the performance, staying close to Golding’s intention.

Although the portrayal of Ralph by Alistair Toovey is at times weak, the strength of James Clay’s Jack and George Bukhari’s “Piggy” pulls the performance back to a gripping moral battle between playing the barbaric hunters or remaining sane, sensible and hoping for escape.

A special mention has to go to Matt Ingram whose depiction of Roger perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere of hallucinatory, tribal madness that engulfs the “Hunters”. Ingram’s Roger transforms from a blazer-wearing schoolboy into a bloodthirsty, uncontrollable creature, in a performance suggestive of a far more experienced actor.

…a powerful expression of Golding’s disturbing novel and an original portrayal of humanity…

The only adult character in the performance is the Military Officer (Ken Christiansen). The emergence of a grown male at the climax of the plot, after the shocking action of the previous scenes, should be a poignant snap back to reality. However, Christiansen’s arrival on set is awkward. The ironic chastisement of the “upstanding English boys” for lowering themselves to these barbaric “fun and games” should forcefully reinstate the social hierarchy from which Ralph, Jack and the “Hunters” have become so psychologically removed. Instead the intensity and violence of the plot merely fades into a clumsy final scene, falling short of its dramatic potential.

The setting, the set design and the brilliance of some of these young actors (including ten year old Spike White) offer a powerful expression of Golding’s disturbing novel and an original portrayal of humanity in times of war and the lengths some will go to in order to gain power.

Tickets start at £19

Lord of the Flies continues to run until 18 June. Upcoming productions at the Open Air Theatre include The Beggar’s Opera.

3 Stars 


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