To emphasise the physicality of the performance, the island setting is relocated into the home of teenage macho posturing – the school gymnasium. The youthful cast are surrounded by punch bags of various sizes, climbing ropes and four wooden staircases which, with the addition of a few bags of sand, suddenly become very clever representations of both the beach and the vantage point that the boys christen Castle Rock.
The cast is usually made up of nine but, at the performance I attended Daniel Ash, who should plays Percival, was missing. However, the remaining eight covered his absence brilliantly and, without the aid of the cast list in the programme, the absent character would have gone unnoticed.
Daniel Buckley gives a superb performance as the overweight and bespectacled Piggy. His desperate attempts to retain some sense of order, as all about him descends into chaos, are heartfelt and the audience shares in his ever-increasing sense of frustration. At the opposite end of the moral spectrum is Jack Merridew Mark Smedley, the prefect of the surviving members of a school choir, who realises very early on that the only way he can retain that leadership is to encourage the mayhem.
Brothers Sam and Eric, played by Matthew Crouzieres and Craig Webb are totally believable as characters that have just one priority – to protect each other. The timing in the way that they continue and complete each other’s sentences is always spot on and delivered as if it is really the only way to speak.
Another masterful performance is given by Matthew Grace as Simon, a boy who often utters wise words but who is somewhat derided by the others. The scene where he “cracks up” and heads off to find “The Beast” that the boys believe inhabits the island is both frightening and moving.
David Eaton’s performance as Roger is wonderfully creepy. As soon as he starts to see that aspects of conventional society are beginning to break down, he gives way to his animal urges and encourages Maurice Michael Tantrum to follow him into a pit of base instincts.
Special mention has to go to Ben Wiggins as Ralph, the elected leader of the group, who best epitomises the transition from order to chaos. His strength and leadership give way to self doubt and near lunacy as he realises that, without rescue, the group are doomed.
This is a thoroughly entertaining piece that, although minimalist in presentation, raises massive questions about society, morality and individuality.