This classic story by William Golding has been a best-seller since its first publication in1954 and its adoption as a school literary text has made it a classic. Though originally set in the 50s, when the threat of a Nuclear War was to the fore, the story really focuses on human survival, humanity, and the ‘veneer’ that we adopt when society’s constraints are put on us; in this case the ethos and constraints of school life where teacher/adults set the rules, rewards and punishments. Without constraints can we still be ‘civilised’ or do we regress to animal instinct survival techniques?
In Nigel Williams’ updated adaptation for director Marcus Romer’s Pilot Theatre production, the messages seem even more powerful and the talented ensemble present a piece that is dark, exhilarating and so engaging that at times it had the audience of school groups emoting, commenting on and criticising the actions of the characters like ‘groundlings’.
The prejudices that ultimately divide the group into Piggy’s them and us include class, accent, appearance, race and ultimately power. In the struggle for leadership Davood Ghadami as Ralph and Mark Knightly as Jack are a well matched pair, whilst Dominic Doughty’s frustrated but rational Piggy is a delight. The twins provide some light relief in their unison responses and there is a danger of being drawn into the word play of the taunting: as adults we are no less vulnerable to group pressure. However it is Lachlan McCall’s Roger that is the most chilling of all - the speed at which he embraces the new freedom with a portrayal that is truly frightening and menacing.
The set is dominated by the wreck of the plane, a hinged tail section and the skeletal remains of part of the fuselage - it serves for all locations and works well as our imagination is engaged with creative lighting effects and a soundtrack, or rather a beautifully crafted score, ranging from ambient to drum and bass that underlies many of the scenes, heightening the emotional tension, though at times making it hard to hear some of the dialogue.
This is a highly charged, frenetic portrayal of the descent of man, atmospheric, eerie and highly charged with incredible energy levels from a cast whose movements, mannerisms and vocal inflexions are so well honed that you forget you are watching adults. This is no Blue Remembered Hills - this is the real deal. Be afraid, be very afraid!