Review: Lord Of The Flies – Liverpool Playhouse

OLDER audience members’ familiarity with William Golding’s Lord of the Flies will mostly be memories of school literature classes or of Peter Brook’s excellent 1963 film adaptation. Meanwhile, groups of Merseyside students on school theatre trips are in for a treat this week, as Regents Park Theatre present their touring version of Nigel Williams outstanding stage adaptation to Liverpool under the stylish direction of Timothy Sheader. Seeing the work brought so vividly to life will surely illuminate any connected coursework. Set before a backdrop of forest it’s easy to imagine the piece in the open air setting of Regents Park, but although it has been brought indoors there have been few changes to the staging for the transfer. The theatre management must have taken a deep breath when they read the technical script for the production and saw how much use is made of fire onstage, but wait, I’m ahead of myself… Entering the auditorium we’re greeted by wreckage of a plane on a beach, its broken fuselage and wing sections dominating the stage, and mountains of luggage spilling beyond the proscenium. The obvious drama of Jon Bausor’s stage design perfectly sets the scene for Goldings allegorical tale. It’s the casting, though, that makes this production really work. Most of the actors are a little older than they appear, but they have clearly been chosen for their ability to be believable as teenagers, as well as for their considerable acting talent. Especially strong are the central trio of Ralph, Jack, and Piggy, played by Luke Ward-Wilkinson, Freddie Watkins and Anthony Roberts. Ward-Wilkinson really captures the philosophical nature of Ralph and Roberts’ Piggy has tremendous appeal, while Watkins is genuinely terrifying as his Jack spirals into a lust for power and control. Another piece of casting that seems an obvious choice, but is probably no mean feat to achieve, is the appearance of twin brothers Thiago and Fellipe Pigatto in the roles of Sam ’n Eric, their apparent fraternal telepathy making the unison text delivery very slick indeed. Three children share the role of Perceval, and Benedict Barker inhabited the part with huge confidence on Tuesday. The entire cast perform with boundless energy, utilising every inch and level of the sculptural set. As the play progresses, more and more parts of the airplane wreckage disintegrate along with the law and order that Piggy and Ralph try in vain to wrest back from Jack and his increasingly savage band of hunters. Fire, stolen from the sun with Piggy’s glasses, becomes both a bid for rescue and the demonstration of a quest for control, and its early refusal to be tamed makes for some nail-biting theatre. The central tragedy of Piggy’s murder is cleverly adapted to balance palatability with horror, and the suddenness of the ending as rescue arrives is as arresting as it is in the source novel, a stark shift in lighting emphasising the transformation back into frightened children. Lord of the Flies is at the Playhouse until Saturday and then continues with a further 5 tour venues until 19th March. Review by Nigel Smith