We were initially disappointed to hear that the poor weather meant that our performance of Lord of the Flies was to take place in the inside venue: the prospect of following the action around Oxford's historic mound had been an exhilarating promise – and previous plays that take part in the rather sterile inside alternative have been less than atmospheric.
Within seconds, we were reassured: the island beach was conjoured from a simple, but effective dramatic device, and as the evening unrolled, it became clear that director Charlie Parker had spent as much time on making the play work inside as outside. There is some superb, audacious use of the space, that results in the action happening all around the audience – sometimes even out of view, sometimes outside the building but nevertheless, the pace of this production never drops.
Amongst the performers, there are some very effective portrayals of young men. Scott Newman's nightmarishly precocious Jack struts and brays around the set, contrasting Sam Cole's thoughtfully innocent Ralph. We particularly enjoyed the socially and physically awkward Piggy (Calum Roscoe) and the thoughtful intellect in Fen Greatley's Simon. Mark Williams' Percival had a curiously watchable quality, and we spent much time during the interval wondering what he was going to do.
When you have a play with nearly a dozen characters of similar ages and backgrounds, there is always going to be the risk that the audience aren't going to be able to differentiate them. Fortunately, Parker has clearly worked with her cast to clearly separate the boys, and this really helps the clarity of the story, and helps the audience to identify with their dilemmas – and when the group divides, there is real tension as you follow the emotional struggles of two of the characters. And later, when the groups come into conflict, the aggression is tangible, with some threatening fight choreography (Kirby Braddell) leaving you in no doubt as to the desperation of the fight.
There were some aspects that let the production down: the voice of the Lord of the Flies was lacking in menace, and a couple of the actors' performances jarred at times.
Lord of the Flies is not suitable for young children, but we felt that ten and above would be fine – Daniel said that there were moments of tension that made him flinch.
Overall, we can recommend this production: if you love the theatre, enjoy drama and long for some truly original work, Lord of the Flies is a good way to spend your time – whether inside or out.