Editorial note: the following preview is an expanded edit of Alice Strasburger’s virtuoso original piece. Upon reading Alice’s original, the Stage team decided that it was too bold and stylistically challenging to be appreciated by a student audience. We instead decided to publish a less fragmentary piece which tries to aid reader comprehension through the use of those staid old journalistic commonplaces, full sentences. If our effort falls short of the original, it is only because Alice’s preview is a work of the highest artistic merit, experimenting with literary form in a way not seen since Pound’s Pisan Cantos, and we apologise for what can only be called the desecration of a masterpiece.
I’d joined them as a critic. But 10 minutes in with cast of Lord of the Flies and I was yelling and stamping too: such is the infectious energy of Dom Applewhite and his cast. What will eventually erupt onto the stage of the O’Reilly in 3rd week, I am almost scared to behold.
This is a production truly in the spirit of the rabid original. Using the only script of which William Golding approved, it manages to bring the ignorance of childhood and its blissful absence of adult grief into focus in much the same way as Golding’s novel did 60 years ago. Through only a small number of set-piece scenes it asks what, if anything, childhood is for. Is it, as we are so often told, worth preserving, or an immaturity to be remedied by the emergence of children into a world of responsibility?
Lord of the Flies chronicles the lives of schoolboys stranded on a desert island following a plane crash. The play, just like the novel, uses this simple setup to place its characters under the microscope. It’s an intense play, so it’s a good thing that Screw the Looking Glass have found a cast up to the challenge. Misha Pinnington is enchanting as Ralph, the leader of the boys; Kit Owens as petulant, vulnerable Piggy; Georgia Bruce, demonic, as Jack, the catalyst and perpetrator of violence. Echoing Peter Brooke’s iconic adaption of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there will be a blank white set and minimal effects, clearing all distractions to allow the magic actor and narrative to do its work – no ply-board palm trees here.
More than any of these other aspects, it is the frisson and fitful fluidity of the ensemble cast that gives this production the dangerous edge that it needs to be convincing. Doubtless that is because there is already an unusual and palpable sense of shared identity amongst them, and the director should be commended for fostering this without injecting – as the play’s characters do – too much anarchy and bloodthirst into rehearsals. Together the cast convey a complete sense of child-like abandon, which is often coupled with a dangerous unpredictability. Much of the cast have the ability to change at a moment’s notice into something far more sinister.
Most of us have our enthusiasm for Lord of the Flies beaten out of us in GCSE, but if anything has the ability to make us forget our sardonic nonchalance, it’s this. Screw the Looking Glass’s adaptation will make clear the visceral power of the original story, and evoke the volatility of mob rule – it’s well worth your time.
Lord of the Flies is on at the Keble O’Reilly Theatre in 3rd Week, tickets from £6