Review: Lord of the Flies

A key question for any re-telling of William Golding's classic 1954 novel is whether to attempt to update the action.

The mechanics and dialogue of a boy's school choir seems woefully out of date nearly 60 years later, even if the rapid descent into barbarism seems all too plausible after a decade of Big Brother and, more viscerally, this summer's riots.

Sell A Door's production at the Norwich Playhouse chooses to mix old and new, retaining the public school dialogue but with a modern minimalist staging that relies on Ralph Stockeld's lighting design to do much of the heavy lifting for both set and sentiment.

The action surrounds a group of schoolboys whose plane has crashed on a deserted island, leaving their decorum as damaged as their journey. The very physical staging of this production is nasty, brutish but seemingly not so short. While the tale needs time to unfold, a sharper focus by director Simon Pollard should have produced a tighter first half.

Instead Robert Sladden as Ralph is allowed to meander leadenly along, with David Shopland's Piggy as a slightly chippy voice of reason. The standout performance is from Matthew Grace as the prescient but tragic Simon, who finally falls victim to Mark Smedley's nicely-drawn pent-up choir prefect Jack.

David Eaton and Adam Glass work well together as the sometimes comic pairing of Sam and Eric, and there is a surprising amount of humour brought out of the text.

But does it speak to our time? Golding's references to 'the bomb' no longer have the chilling power they once did and despite an energising and engaging finale Pollard doesn't quite do enough to make Lord of the Flies a play for today.

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Lord of the Flies concludes its run at the Norwich Playhouse at 7.30pm on Wednesday.

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