Review by Benjamin Kibblewhite
For many of my peers, William Golding’s novel The Lord of the Flies has been forever spoiled by uninspiring High School English teachers. Thankfully, the Lower Ossington Theatre’s production, adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams and directed by Darcy Evans, banishes those painful memories. The novel is primarily an allegory for the tenuous nature of civilization, and the strain between easy groupthink and the frustrations of individuality as well as democracy.
Those themes remain just as pertinent today as in 1963, but the story takes on a new level of meaning with the increasing media attention focused on the persistent problem of school bullying. It seems not a week goes by without some tragic news item detailing the horrific abuse a young boy or girl has faced at the hands of their peers. Within that context, the harassment and violence committed by some of the characters seems all too familiar.
A group of boys are stranded on an island after their plane crashes. With no adult survivors, they try to create a semblance of civilization with disastrous results. A struggle for leadership emerges between Ralph (Jeff Dingle), the democratically elected “chief,” and Jack (Lindsay Robinson), the hawkish “hunter”. Ralph attempts to lead through reason and logic, and his priorities are order and rescue. Jack’s goals are to hunt and dance, and he leads through primal force. Jack’s stature among the other boys grows immensely when he and his band successfully kill a wild pig, whose head they place on a spear as an offering to “the beast.” As Jack’s influence grows, the vestiges of civilization the boys have managed to build collapse. Chaos rules the day, resulting in murder and injustice.
Strong performances from the leads carry the play. Particular mentions go to Kyle Murray as Simon for his disturbing performance when he stumbles upon the rotting pig’s head in the woods, as well as Micky Myers (Piggy), who has an eloquent and defiant final speech which makes the play’s ending that much more tragic. Accolades are deserved for Michael Kangas’ resourceful lighting design, which with a minimum of instruments created an effective and dynamic sense of mood. Of note is his use of several colour changing LED lights (rare in theatre), which had the double effect of offering both a flexible palette, and lending a surreal quality to the production.
Ultimately, the play traverses smoothly through some difficult emotional ground. Two intermissions offer a respite from the heavy material, and provide a welcome chance to reflect on the themes. There are some rocky moments, particularly when a scene requires active participation from the entire cast. The dance after Jack brings back his slain pig was particularly awkward; a pity as it is a pivotal moment in the play. However, director Evans keeps the ball rolling and we are soon past the rough patch.
“LORD OF THE FLIES” is onstage at the Lower Ossington Theatre until Dec. 9th,