Dark and disturbing this is a gripping, chilling version of William Golding’s classic novel LORD OF THE FLIES directed by Matthew Bourne.
This is the Australian premiere with a short Melbourne season only and represents the first time that this work has been performed out of the UK. Bourne’s production is driven, relentless and, at time, explosively violent.
Golding’s book published in 1954 examines the fragile abyss between savagery and civilisation.
Bourne’s work establishes the novel’s key narrative points through movement, exploring themes of human nature and mob rule and the sinister developments that can ensue.
The large cast includes 23 local young men who are involved through a community development process designed to provide access, and a transformative life experience, for these young dancers.
Months of workshops led up to this performance. Ranging in age from 11 to 25, the dancers absolutely throw themselves into this work with sizzling energy and obvious dedication to the gravitas of the story. All perform with anarchic, rambunctious enthusiasm and work well with the Company’s nine professional dancers.
If you know Bourne’s work and are familiar with its various incarnations you can perhaps pick tiny snippets of choreography from say Oliver, Swan Lake and Spitfire. Interestingly in this production Scott Ambler has been credited as the choreographer.
In this version the boys are stranded in a cavernous, abandoned theatre. Lez Brotherston’s wonderful, eerily atmospheric designs are a major feature of this production. The theatre is a spooky dark cavernous space, filled with props and masks, and racks of clothes to fire the boys’ wild imaginations.
There are wicker baskets, petrol drums and terraced scaffolding that run diagonally across the stage and crashing metal roller doors.
Paul Groothuis’ sound design, and the atmospheric lighting design by Chris Davey featuring a huge sun and moon, and snappy blackouts, also contribute to the sense of danger, fear and disintegration at the heart of Golding’s timeless tale.
Scott Ambler’s choreography captures the children’s descent from schoolboy to savage. Initially their movement is marching and controlled yet inflected with sporty motifs- there are allusions to soccer.
Terry Davies’ score with its pure choirboy anthems still places the boys in a solid world of rules and timetables, at least to begin with.
The conch shell is here replaced by a drum stick beating an empty petrol drum.
As the boys begin to turn wild ,the music becomes far more percussive and feral with jungle rhythms , howls and beats, and Ambler’s choreography changes into warlike dances, with measured stamping and the use of long poles in a martial arts effect, around which the younger ones tumble and run.
Senior prefect Ralph attempts to keep order but Jack , a large lad hungry for power and hedonism, confronts him and the descent begins with food fights and descends to murder. Some of the most effective choreography is used in character introspection.
Dominic North is marvellous as the reluctant noble leader Ralph. There is a rather nightmarish scene where Simon (Patrick Weir) imagines the pig’s head coming to life.
Daniel Wright’s ferocious Jack, a playground bully who becomes a stalking commando.
The violence unleashed as the war games become real makes us fear for its victims in particular poor bespectacled asthmatic Piggy, played by Luke Murphy.
There is also a wonderful duo for Samneric (Taylor Scanlan and Shay Debney).
The time-lapse element is cleverly contrived and there is some use of slow motion in the choreography.
Mention must also be made of eerie appearances of the tramp (the ghost of a dead pilot?) who somehow manages to get into the theatre through the shutter door which the boys can’t open. Is he in fact a symbolic representation of Death?
The fire, which in the book is started by focusing the sun’s light through Piggy’s spectacles, is created here using Piggy’s cigarette lighter. This, of course, makes Jack’s wilful theft of the glasses in the second half even more cruel. In this version Jack had no motive to take Piggy’s spectacles, except that he wanted to.
This breathlessly energetic, all male production graphically brings Golding’s tale to life. Golding’s dark tale concludes that chaos is inevitable when the thin veneer of human nature’s of civilisation is removed .The audience is confronted with parallels between adult attitudes to modern warfare and the boys descending into malicious bestiality .
Running time just under 2 hours including one interval.
New Adventures production of LORD OF THE FLIES is playing the Melbourne Arts Centre between 5th and 9th April.