Swansea University’s student-based theatrical company, Shoreline Theatre, made the brave decision to perform a stage adaptation of the classic survival horror story Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The play, which was performed at the Grand Theatre in Swansea on the 17th and 18th March, was directed by English student Francesca Hobson and included an all-male cast as is tradition.
Having watched the final performance on Tuesday the 18th, I was intrigued and captivated by the beginning sequence. After the end of the introductory song Run Boy Run by Woodkid nearly the entire cast, with the exception of the dead pilot (played by William Godfrey) and the officer (Yushi Redhead), began marching in diagonal lines towards the centre of the stage. With a jungle theme playing in the background the cast all split into pairs and began clapping each other’s hands and playing childlike games. This was extremely effective because it helped set into motion the important element that the characters are all young schoolboys castaway and lost on a desert island, and reinforced the childlike innocence that was needed to make their performances convincing.
In the opening scene we were quickly introduced to the protagonist Ralph (Alex Gardiner) who befriends the first boy he meets, who was nicknamed Piggy (John Welch). They are the only two characters who make righteous and sensible decisions throughout the play and the friendship that they establish had to be spot on. The two actors’ portrayals were not only convincing but commendable. It was clear from the beginning that they were playing two vulnerable young boys who form a friendship in order to survive and the connection between Gardiner and Welch was one that, for a brief moment, filled the audience with hope that the story would end happily.
This relationship however, was often torn away by the menacing portrayal of the play’s antagonist Jack Merridew (Stefan Fletcher). From the actor’s use of the stage to his simplistic yet effective use of gestures, such as the licking of his fingers after killing a pig, Fletcher left the audience shrinking in their seats in horror. This performance was closely supported by the equally sadistic portrayal of Roger (Tom Skirrow), and the character development for these two in particular was apparent. The transition from the young schoolboys stranded on an island to the blood coated and bare chested pig hunters was sensational to say the least, and Merridew’s group, including fellow cast members Steven Stringer, Simon Thompson and Patrick Reeves-Dienes, was strong and believable.
The fantastic use of lighting throughout a number of scenes, particularly in the deaths of Simon and Piggy, began slow and dim and gradually became brighter and quicker to better establish the murders taking place and to keep the audience gripping their seats. The death of Simon (Josh Hutin) was especially frightening due to it happening instantly after his previous monologue. Simon’s monologue was commendable for its frightening and realistic reaction to being hunted. With a single spotlight shining on him centre stage the audience could not help but connect with the character’s feelings of anxiety and hopelessness as it became very clear what would happen to the character next.
Other supporting characters such as Sam (Will Windridge) and Eric (James Reid) provided a different and fresh presence to the performance. Although traditionally the two characters are twins, these two were the best of friends throughout the performance. It was a relief and a much needed relaxing element for the audience to see the two boys conversing and playing together in between scenes with high levels of tension and action. Their relationship defined the island as being like a house divided because on the one side there was Jack and his evil minions, and on the other Ralph as the leader of order, which Sam and Eric were a part of. Despite this Sam, Eric and the Teddy-bear schoolboy (Fred Kirby) seem to be the only three boys who do not actively involve themselves in the politics of order that take place on the island. They are all in this sense involuntarily separated from the action.
Overall the night was a huge success and the performance, in my view, was one of the best amateur productions I have ever seen. If you would like to see the production the Matthew Bourne dance and theatre company will be touring London and performing as of October this year so go online for more details.
By Naomi Dunn