Review: Lord of the Flies, Open Air Theatre

“Which is better – to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?”

Watching theatre outdoors is always a bit of a challenge in this country and the weather for the last while has been so changeable and unseasonably cold at times that the prospect of going to see Lord of the Flies at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park was not one that filled me with much anticipation. But as may be evident by now, it doesn’t take too much to convince me (3 gin and tonics, if you’re wondering) and thankfully the gods were kind to us with no rain falling, even if it was extremely chilly.

Timothy Sheader’s production of William Golding’s classic novel of a group of schoolboys stranded on a desert island and left to their own devices, is nominally an updating – hints abound in the debris of the crashed-plane set – but in truth, very little concession is made to this. The language, the diction, the performances all speak of Golding’s original post-war era which fitted the rather traditional feel better than any pretence at locating this story firmly in the modern day.

The first half dragged somewhat for me, the Boy’s Own tone as George Bukhari’s appeal for rules and order and so Alastair Toovey’s charismatic Ralph is elected leader held the production at arm’s length and set up characters a bit too firmly given the places they then go to later on, the fear of the ‘monster’ in the trees was rather inexplicable. But once the rumblings of unrest in the group started to make themselves clearly evident, the show became a lot more interesting, spearheaded by James Clay’s power-hungry Jack who leads his followers into savagery and horrific consequences.

Jon Bausor’s design of the detritus-covered plane wreck is truly arresting and as the sky darkens (this really is a show where matinees should be avoided), the air of menace is perfect for the increasingly nightmarish turn of events. The mostly teenage cast do very well at showing how suggestible human nature really is of being twisted into the darkest places and the overall impact is one of great visual impact. Being so cold though, I couldn’t help but wish it had been shorter.

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £4
Booking until 18th June

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