The first thing the audience sees as they get in are white cubes: a simple and majestic scenography for indeed a powerful play, though anything but simple. The number of meanings, allegories, and symbolic allusions is impossible to count. But what makes the play so great is that it embraces and at the same time goes beyond the symbolism of which William Golding filled his novel.
A gang of schoolboys, a desert island, an age of innocence; a wrong twist, and the play just takes off. And the audience is simply hypnotised. At the beginning the good boys, all coming from respectable schools, try to get organised and to set up a legitimate leadership. Some rules are sketched and some thoughts on justice and given. Four boys stand out of the gang: Ralph, practical and expert; Jack, the bossy one; Piggy, the weak and pedantic observer of the rules; Simon, sound and reasonable. The rest of the boys follow – with impressive imitation of childlike attitudes and facial expressions – and throughout the play they are manipulated by the charisma of Ralph and Jack. However, when the thought that a beast might live on the island creeps into their hearts, they become more and more beast-like themselves. And fear is indeed omnipresent in the play: fear in the boys, fear amongst the audience, fear in the hunting, fear of the dark, fear of the beast which hides in every one of us. Tension reaches its peak in Ralph’s cry at the end: tears springs out of the frustrating realisation that their society was all a game, but two people have died for real; that he was the one in charge, and yet there was nothing he could do to stop savagery spreading, because, as Jack remarks, ‘the beast can take many forms’, including that of innocent schoolboys. And this awareness, brought up repeatedly throughout the play, gives its meaning and power, making it one of the most amazing productions of term.
The play is made immensely original and engaging by the scenography and images projected (with a highly technological device) on the white cubes and panels. Not only does the whiteness symbolically contribute to the crescendo of the boys’ savagery, as the cubes become dirtier and dirtier as the gang gets wilder and wilder (a possible metaphor of their spoilt innocence), but it also provides a black canvas on which pretty much any situation can be sketched in a realistic way. Fire, rain, night, thunderbolts are brilliantly conveyed, and so are the unforgettable mad dance of the boys and the sheer tension during the hunt scenes. Which brings us to the acting, the second undeniable success of the play. The main characters simply dominate the stage, keeping the audience glued to their chairs and hanging off their words. Simon and Ralph are particularly talented, and this is most noticeable when they abandon the stage to go and act among the spectators. In fact, the whole performance is played in a dynamic way, with the actors running up and down the O’Reilly, almost spreading the violence even among the audience.
Lord of the Flies is remembered by many as the text studied at GCSEs, but the play put on by Dom Applewhite is nothing like a book studied at school: the most basic instincts of human beings are brought on stage, and they shock, amuse, thrill, and scare the audience, in a rollercoaster of emotions.