Review: Lord Of The Flies (Liverpool Playhouse)

A plane crashes on a remote island and the only survivors are a group of schoolboys. At first they try to replicate the world they are used to, holding a meeting where they establish rules and agree to make an organized effort to get themselves rescued. But soon their resolve weakens, and a horrifying descent into violence and anarchy begins.

William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies is one of those books that can be endlessly mined for themes and ideas: man’s innate savagery, the fragility of civilization, group psychology, the nature of childhood innocence and how and why it is lost – the list goes on, and as with all great books you can argue forever about where exactly Golding stood on these issues. No wonder it’s been studied at school for generations (and the coachloads of youngsters in the Playhouse audience confirm that it’s still very much on the syllabus). No wonder also that it’s been filmed twice, and adapted for the stage. This version by playwright and novelist Nigel Williams first saw the light of day in 1995 and then a few years ago was revived very successfully by the Regent’s Park Theatre.

Photo credit: Johan Persson

Photo credit: Johan Persson

It’s this production that’s now come to Liverpool, and it’s easy to see why it was so popular in London. Director Timothy Sheader and designer Jon Bausor fully exploit the story’s powerful visual elements. The stage is dominated by the huge wreck of a plane; debris including clothing and suitcases spills from its broken body, an advance warning of the chaos to come. Later, fires are lit as darkness falls, and boys with painted faces stomp and chant, caught up in a terrifying but irresistible dance of death.

The young cast are magnificent. Luke Ward-Wilkinson as decent, principled Ralph movingly conveys his transition from popular, confident leader to tortured, despairing outcast. His friend Piggy, thoughtful and sensible but a natural target for playground bullies, is superbly and very engagingly played by Anthony Roberts. Simon, the wisest and most insightful of them all if only the other boys would listen to him, gets a sensitive, expertly judged performance from Keenan Munn-Francis. Freddie Watkins impressively combines menace and insecurity as Ralph’s malevolent rival Jack. Benedict Barker, the youngest member of the company, gives a terrifically assured performance as the ‘littlun’, teddy bear-clutching Perceval. But all of the actors make their contribution to the creation of a wholly believable set of schoolboys, and they fully deserved the acclamation they received at the end of the performance.

Lord Of The Flies is made for the stage and this fine production had everyone, young and old alike, gripped from the start. Tickets are apparently scarce and the play’s only on for a week, but if you can manage it this is one to see.

***** Spellbinding adaptation of a classic story

Lord Of The Flies continues at the Liverpool Playhouse until Saturday 6 February. For more information, click HERE.