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Lord of the Flies (Theatre Royal, Plymouth)

Matthew Bourne is always exciting and different. And ''Lord of the Flies'' fits the bill but….

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Matthew Bourne is always exciting and different. And Lord of the Flies fits the bill but….

Olivier Award-nominated Scott Ambler and Bourne have adapted Golding's perennial school set text, added Terry Davies' scratchy electronic score, Nick Allen live on the cello, and Chris Davey's atmospheric lighting, and infused the result with non-pro boys from the locality for an interesting mix of anarchy with community spirit.

Two tour directors play tag across the country, arriving in each venue in advance to rehearse the 23 or so chosen local lads some of whom have never danced before. And the result is superb – from the opening disciplined formation marching to the visceral chanting and tribal stomping of the feral gang, the boys are on point for the Re:Bourne ethos making dance accessible to/ possible for the masses, and breaking down the stigma surrounding boys and ballet.

Eight athletic New Adventures dancers lead the way with Rambert School trained Danny Reubens (Edward Scissorhands, Swan Lake) strong as the maverick Jack morphing from bully boy to savage hoodie leader.

Dominic North (leading roles in Edward Scissorhands, Dorian Gray and more) is precise as clean cut Ralph, Sam Plant (four international tours with New Adventures) a believable doomed Piggy and tremendous all-rounder Layton Williams (Billy Elliot, Beautiful People, Stephen in Bad Education) dances a lithe Simon as some superb pas de deux result from the fight to wrest leadership, and bullying of the younger and weaker.

There is fine detail and plenty going on but… (and I risk popular dissent) there is just something missing.

The problem for me lies in the production. I just didn't engage with the unfolding story and the dance, although excellent at times, was more often the choreographed movement of physical theatre such as Frantic Assembly (which I love but which is not what we expect from New Adventures).

After a slow start, the pace picks up but unfortunately the piece remains detached - somewhat episodic and clunky.

Lez Brotherston's gloomy set moves the action from an island to a deserted theatre in which the boys are incarcerated in a time of civil unrest. Foraging parties find crisps and ice-cream, coat racks and lethal spotlights – clever - but how did that pig get in? And the broiling sun and a full moon?

Too many questions and not enough flow to become absorbed. I do not want to undermine the value of the project or the results but this is not the quirky all-engrossing dance we have come to expect from Matthew Bourne.

- Karen Bussell