By Leah Shaw.
We were whisked away to a tropical island for this year’s Summer Term production, though it was, of course, the last place you’d want to spend your holidays.
Based on William Golding’s classic novel of desert island Dystopia, the director (Mr Saunders) breathed new life into Nigel Williams’ adaptation for the stage by making a couple of important changes. The first, is that a mixed-gender cast was used instead of an all-male one; the second, that events have been moved to the present day. Both changes serve to evoke our own society, fostering an empathy that certainly heightens the sense of dread as the story unfolds.
With no adults to guide them, the young plane crash survivors’ focus is on staying alive as well as on the establishment of a new social order. The themes of conflict, power and tribalism are established quickly as a power struggle between Tom’s Ralph and Charmaine’s charismatically fearsome Jackie is played out, much to the delight (and terror) of the audience.
The actors manage to effectively convey the nuances of their characters, establishing that this story is not simply one of good vs evil. Though Ralph does learn to value the wise words of Piggy (played by Malachy, on fine form as the voice of reason) by the latter stages of the play, his quest for power often results in cruel and dismissive behaviour. Ralph’s shortcomings are comparatively minor when contrasted with the terrifyingly callous bully, Jackie.
A well thought-out set allows the audience to switch focus between the two tribes of children that emerge, one representing ‘civilised’ society and the other a ‘savage’ dictatorship. The supporting actors, particularly the ‘hunters’, do a great job of imposing their presence on the audience, and those of us sitting in the first couple of rows narrowly missed being pelted with twigs, suitcases and assorted plane crash debris!
The makeup and costumes were absolutely flawless; realistic-looking scars, warpaint and increasingly disheveled school uniforms make the children appear wild, lost or hopeless as the play progresses. Atmospheric lighting also adds to the sense of dread, while brief moments of respite are emphasised by the use of dappled light and an orange glow to represent sunrise.
Llew’s pitch-perfect cameo as a rather stern rescuer delivers the final line of the play, “I would have thought a pack of British children would have put on a better show than this.” I beg to differ. It was an excellent production featuring a dedicated group of performers who showed great enthusiasm and commitment to their craft.