Lord of the Flies – Review – Bradford Alhambra
Lord of the Flies – Review
Bradford Alhambra, December 2014
by Sandra Callard
William Golding’s controversial book, Lord of the Flies, had a lukewarm reception when it was written in the 1950s. It comes into favour in the 1960s and eventually earns the Nobel Prize for Literature. The story investigates what can happen when a group of young people are abandoned after a shipwreck. Alone and without any kind of authority figure, the book depicts how they cope – or not, as the case may be – in a society which has no boundaries.
The book is made into a successful film, and now Matthew’s Bourne’s dance and theatre touring company, New Adventures, brings to life on stage this compelling and disturbing drama. Lord of the Flies has an all male cast of characters. Eight dancers complement a cast of 22 young people age between ten and 22. All of whom are from local dance schools. Most of these have some acting experience, but many of them have never danced. Their dancing is not balletic, but the precision of their routines is accomplished with panache and confidence.
There is the same set all the way through, depicting a ship tilting and going aground. You can hear the sounds of a ship sinking as you enter the auditorium. As steam bellows, shouts are heard, and grinding metal and explosions all set the scene for the boy survivors’ entrance. As time goes on the smart schoolboy uniforms transform into tattered rags. Painted faces, feathers and weapons enhance the scene. Just five of the survivors refuse to join in with the depravity. They parade around with pigs’ heads on, they abuse and taunt the rejectors of the regime. It is a frightening endorsement of a life without any rule of law.
Outstanding amongst the dancers is Sam Plant as Piggy. He is the fat boy who receives taunts, but who nevertheless stands up bravely to the worst of the excesses. Although by no means fat, he is not as lean and muscular as the others. Nevertheless he executes his dances beautifully and movingly.
The lead dancers, including Sam Archer as Ralph, Ross Carpenter as Maurice and Luke Murphy as Sam, are perfection. They move with a glorious athleticism that belies the viciousness of their actions, or alternatively the sadness of their pain.
Lord of the Flies is not an easy book to read. The film explores the brutality graphically. This ballet production glosses over slightly the depravity to which the boys sink. But nevertheless it still has the power to shock. It is a disturbing dichotomy of the baser and greater instincts of human nature, wrapped up in a package of incredible beauty. Matthew Bourne has pulled it off again. He deserves his reputation as a giant in modern contemporary dance production.