William Golding’s Lord of the Flies @ Alhambra Theatre, Bradford – ‘thought-provoking’
A full house at the Alhambra Theatre waited in anticipation for the play to begin. Passengers’ luggage is strewn haphazardly across the stage and items of dirtied holiday clothing reflects the horror of what has happened. The story unfolds, which sees a group of schoolboys aged between 6 and 12 stranded on a tropical island, after their plane is shot down during wartime. The set is filled with the parts left of the authentic-looking, broken-up British aircraft. The wings create platforms, which form two levels, whereby the actors can use these as lookout points and shelter.
Surprisingly upbeat we are greeted by Ralph confidently played by Luke Ward-Wilkinson who meets a rather shaken up Piggy well-acted by Anthony Roberts. As more of the cast emerge we begin to see the dynamics of how human nature tries to seek order in disorder. The music and frieze-frame moments add a cinematic mood and atmosphere to the piece.
The playful energy of the rule-breakers, in particularly Michael Ajao, well cast as Maurice, sets a more comic element. He dons a pair of green sunglasses and dances in female holiday attire but this is juxtaposed with a stark reminder of the others who didn’t make it. As well as in the literal sense, a found conch shell symbolises something to hold onto, as in the island rules. Held at the meetings by the speaker, we eventually see this and the rules destroyed. Freddie Watkins convincingly plays Jack, who seeks to be chief of the group although Ralph is officially voted in. This starts the uncomfortable tear between civilisation and savagery.
Golding explores the vulnerability of those who are weaker and themes of bullying are exposed when Piggy is singled out early on as the unpopular target of abuse. The pace of the play is very upbeat and the use of spears and fire provides the element of risk and danger. The uncivilised world gives way to violence, destruction and abuse, disarray ensues and chaos reigns over order. The final cast line up demonstrates the distance they have travelled and the human boundaries pushed. Overall a thought-provoking and a bully conscience-pricking production.