‘Lord of the Flies’

‘Lord of the Flies’ is a tale about human nature. Written in 1954, it was English author, William Golding’s first novel. The book’s title is a literal translation of the Biblical name ‘Beelzebub’.

The first edition only sold 3,000 copies; however, it is now 68th on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most objectionable books of the 20th century. ‘Time’ magazine later said it was one of the best 100 modern novels ever.

In 1995, Nigel Williams adapted the book, producing the stage version that is now brought to you by the Harbour Theatre Inc., Harbour Theatre, within ‘Camelot’, 16 Lochee Street, Mosman.

The performance is two hours long and can be seen on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings until Saturday 6th August at 7.30 pm, with Sunday matinees on Sunday 31st July, Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th August at 2.00 pm.

The setting is an island (possibly in the Philippines?) during World War II. The stage is a sandy seashore. There is a lagoon on the stage apron. A mountain has been erected on each of the auditorium’s side aisles. The set has numerous palm trees, lianas and branches. A large piece of plane wing lies on the beach.

This is a difficult scene to create on the stage (designer Sarah Christiner, with construction co-ordinated by Brian Mahoney), but some very innovative ideas have been employed to give a most satisfactory result.

The complex lighting design was well thought out and operated by Aaron Smith. Evan ‘Zany Flash’ Skinner was in charge of the dramatic soundscape. His choice of threatening music was superb; throughout the play, there were also passages of low rumbling notes that shook the auditorium seats, giving a real sense of foreboding.

     We can hear the chatter of schoolchildren as they board a steam train taking them to the airport. It is World War II, so the children are being sent far away from home. There is the massive roar of powerful plane engines as the children head for safety. It is not long before we hear the plane, packed with boys from several schools, skydive onto a deserted island. None of the teachers survive.

     As self-assured survivor, Ralph (Niall Coyle) wanders the beach, where he meets a tubby, intelligent, but shy asthmatic boy, Piggy (Charlie Young). Then, from the bushes emerge a group of boys donned in full, choir-school uniform and black gowns; a bullyboy, Jack Merridew (David Heder), leads them. Jack is a school prefect who has a lot to say, yet seemed to be lacking in self-assurance. Ralph is chosen as leader of all the boys and they go searching for inhabitants and food.

     Aggressive Jack and his schoolmates, including the introverted and nervous Simon (Connor Brown), find a pig and Simon squirms as the others kill it. Even though they all feel empowered, Piggy announces that in order to retain harmony, only the person holding a conch shell that they have found, will be allowed to talk. Steeling Piggy’s spectacles to focus the sunlight, a fire is lit on the nearby hill, in hope that the smoke will be seen by passing ships. Unable to cope without his glasses, Piggy talks to twin brothers Sam (Lachlan Felstead) and Eric (Charlie Martin), two youngsters who finish each other’s sentences.

     The young boys, the ‘littluns’, Henry (Finn Mallett, alternates nights with Jacob Clayton), Bill (Shane Marshall) and Perceval (Elijah Styles, alternates with Luke Callaghan) go searching for food with one of the older boys, Maurice (Caelan Steedman) who being totally unaware of their dire circumstances, looks upon the whole disaster as a fun game, with him as an African Chief. They meet another young boy who staggers out of the bushes; he is Roger (Jamie Buttery) an aggressive boy with a mean streak.

     When Piggy berates Jack for allowing the fire to go out, Jack and his closest friend start their own group and move to the other side of the island where they become savages.

     Will the boys ever be rescued? Alternatively, is a terrible fate awaiting them? Will the illusive beast attack?

Paul Knight has an important cameo part.

Director Sarah Christiner must be brave or mad. Of all the easy plays she could have tackled, Sarah has chosen a serious, complex drama with a large cast of ‘children’. A play that requires a clear distinction between depravity and decency coupled with gut reaction and balanced thought.

Next, she was faced with producing a realistic jungle environment, and a team of young actors capable of coping with large chunks of the script, whilst convincingly depicting their subliminal fears and their descent into the darker side of nature. This play, although written 60 years ago, is still as relevant today with peer pressure still being a major controlling factor, featuring in a school kid’s life.

The boys, who were keen to do their own makeup, were instructed by Nicole Miller, Harry Wake and Kelci Coyle. It was subtle enough to look as though there were days of dirt built up on the boys’ bodies – although their parents may say it was there before.

Sarah employed the whole theatre as her stage. By surrounding the audience with actors, missiles and menacing sounds, the tension was raised a couple of notches. The boys were amazing, with most of them capturing their multifaceted characters completely. The play is two hours long, with almost every member of the cast on stage all of the time, and yet the boys maintained their drive and interaction perfectly. With a major climax at the end of the play, I was worried that they would run out of steam or lose some of their malice, but to their credit, they were word perfect and the chemistry wonderful. Perhaps a little more projection of the dialogue would help, but I saw the final rehearsal so it could have been nerves, as many of the actors have had little previous experience.

It is a most difficult play to stage, but thanks to a huge amount of work, the result was admirable. A good play for teenagers to see, warning them of how easy it is to be sucked in by society.

Director Sarah’s courage paid off wonderfully. Congratulations to all.