If you’ve read the famous novel by William Golding or seen the Peter Brook film you’ll know that Lord of the Flies is about a pack of very proper English schoolboys who sink into savagery while marooned on an island.
The book was adapted to the stage by Britain’s Nigel Williams a year or so after Golding died in 1993, presumably to give desperate drama teachers a vehicle to use at all-boy schools.
The miracle is that Sydney director Iain Sinclair has beautifully cast the play with ten fine adult actors who can play boys and bring to life Golding’s island epic in the tiny space of The Stables theatre.
This accomplished adaptation underlined for me the political metaphors inherent in Golding’s post-war novel. The boys first elect Ralph (Darren Weller) to be their leader. He is an inclusive boy who wants to hold democratic meetings and collectively build shelters and signal fires.
His rival is choir leader Jack (Travis Cotton), who makes an army out of the boys with spears, comes to worship blood and killing, and consolidates his power by threatening the other boys who are different. He’s the perfect fascist bully and his eventual control brings terror to the island.
A real strength of the play is the diversity of the personalities. Each boy is an individual but helps build the tension and terror as the imitation of adult order slips into chaos.
Piggy (John Leary) is bespectacled and clumsy but clings to the conch shell as an emblem of public order. Mark Priestley is the young mystic Simon, the only one who confronts the Beast that haunts everyone’s nightmares. Both are doomed.
All the actors bring a chilling reality to this thrilling story. Civilisation turning to anarchy is an incomprehensible unraveling watched by these young male faces.
From the Cronulla riots to the madness of those who make and fight global terrorism, Golding’s message has proved prophetic -“ you now know exactly how those boys feel.
The Lord of the Flies is a Group Theatre production at The Stables until June 9.