William Golding’s seminal tale of children going feral when left to their own devices on a Pacific island gets a trademark Lazarus Theatre treatment on this their second production during their year-long residency in Greenwich.
A visceral and irresistible production.
During an unnamed war a disparate group of kids are the only survivors of a plane crash. Initially they try to establish order and rules with the use of a conch shell as both rallying cry and talking stick, but a power struggle between the pragmatic Ralph (Amber Wadey) and irascible choir leader, Jack (Nick Cope), sees a split in the group that leads to devastating conclusions.
Director Ricky Dukes brings a passionate approach to this modern classic. Blending powerful physical theatre elements with piercingly raw dialog, Dukes literally fills the auditorium with the story as the cast bellow their lines from the aisles and turn the entire stage left seating area into a makeshift shelter. As the action unfolds, Jack’s choir boys become increasingly bloodied as they chant “Kill The Pig”. This feels like a gastronomic delight as Dukes deconstructs the plot to bring us highly concentrated hits of the story’s milestones, like finding a fiery chilli in a mouthful of tasty curry. The dead parachutist, for instance – a major theme from the original – is dealt with highly effectively with sound, light and fly props in just a few seconds.
Lazarus have chosen a 50/50 gender split in casting, but keep the pronouns male. Golding himself once suggested introducing female characters to the island would fundamentally change the story into one about sex. But because these are girls playing boys, and some of these ladies do bloodthirsty particularly well, it’s never an issue.
Where it suffers is the (apparently enforced) interval. After one and a half hours I was invested enough to see out the last 20 minutes without a break. The second act never quite regained the energy, lacked the physicality of the first and ended with a very cod studio voiceover that felt completely out of place with the action on stage. Rather than giving us the opportunity to see the comparisons of the descent of humanity between the island savages and the at-war adults, this voice of God seemed more like an admonishing newsreader.
Despite the flat note at the end, Lord Of The Flies is still a visceral and irresistible production.