Sunday, 30 June 2013

Lord of the Flies, June 29, 2013 ***1/2

Adapted from the novel by William Golding by Nigel Williams
By US-A-UM and Malthouse Theatre
Malthouse, Tower Theatre, June 29 to July 14, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 29
Review also published in Herald Sun on line on Mon July 1, 2013 and later in print. KH
 Photo by Sarah Walker

If stranded on an isolated island with little hope of rescue, would humans degenerate into a horde of savages with no defined power structure or institutional law and order?

The answer, according to William Golding’s startling 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies, is a resounding Yes; well, at least it is for the prepubescent schoolboys marooned on an island after a plane crash.

Nigel Williams’ 1995 theatrical adaptation condenses Golding’s narrative and combines characters, recreating the intensity, danger and horror of the novel.

In the intimate space of the theatre, Kip Williams’ production is confronting and sometimes frightening as 9 young boys – played by young women – descend into social chaos typified by barbaric rituals, warring factions, irrationality and, ultimately, murder.

Lord of the Flies raises social, political and philosophical issues that have stymied civilisations for millennia: good and evil, right and wrong, morality and ethics, law and order, hierarchy and power.

Kip Williams’ concept is inventive, setting the action in an ordered, domestic environment – a metaphor for the civilised world from which the boys come – then systematically and symbolically destroying the furniture to create the wild world of the island.

The young actors, all recent graduates of our major acting institutions, are a committed and capable ensemble willing to endure simulated assaults, be smeared in tomato sauce as blood and depict vile degradation and brutality.

Fiona Pepper balances vulnerability and strength in Ralph, the boy who is voted leader but struggles with his own need to be popular and is corrupted by the mass hysteria.

As Ralph’s overweight sidekick Piggy, Contessa Treffone is compelling, capturing the resoluteness of this defenseless, myopic, asthmatic child who, despite being mercilessly bullied, pursues his commitment to maintain order.

Eloise Winestock is a vicious Jack, morphing into a deluded cult leader who justifies his cruelty by arguing that his rivals are possessed by a beast, and even more menacing is Zoe Boesen’s Roger, whose appalling brutality is shocking.

Although it is an imaginative theatrical device, sometime the use of furniture to depict the landscape becomes clumsy, repetitive or unclear as the cast clambers over or under beds and chairs to create obstacles and distance.

Having women playing boys allows a lightness of touch that is not possible with men playing boys.

However, it’s not useful to think about the fact that girls would be unlikely to behave in the same way as boys, as they would organise, communicate and bully in different ways.

This production is intensely physical, gritty and fearsome, and Golding’s narrative raises questions about progress and evolution in the 21st century.

By Kate Herbert

1 comment:

  1. Why would girls behave differently from boys? Why should gender dictate their behaviour?