I always enjoy heading down to the Subiaco Arts Centre to get a taste of Perth’s young up-and-coming performers. Of late, SAC is becoming known for showcasing youthful work such as Whiplash’s earlier production of Oh What a Lovely War and WA Youth’s Life of Galileo, as well as being, of course, the performance home of Barking Gecko Theatre Company. With Nigel Williams’ dramatic adaptation of William Golding’s classic Lord of the Flies, director Gregory Jones has chosen a highly challenging work.
Golding’s seminal tale of British schoolboys turning savage on a deserted island in the aftermath of a plane crash is, judging by the number of uniformed 16-year-olds at the theatre last night, still taking pride of place on secondary curriculum – just as it was when I was at school. And rightfully so, I think, as this text (along with Hamlet and J.Alfred Prufrock) is one that I remember most vividly.
I also remember clearly the American film version of about 1990 and starring a 14-year-old Balthazar Getty (then soon-to-be teen heart-throb, now 34-year-old husband and father! Where does the time go??) and for me it drives home the delicate direction that must be inherent in a performance of Lord of the Flies, for they must take young boys, without much life experience or context, and imbue them with the intuition and pathos that this story requires. How do they get boys who know not what they do to know what they do?
Nigel Williams dealt with the issue by using an adult company. In Whiplash’s production, Jones has decided upon a cast on the cusp of manhood, and this bunch of boys can certainly come up with the goods. They are energetic and well synchronised, and, as is the way of boys, unafraid to throw themselves around the set. And they can act.
Unfortunately, they are somewhat let down by a few unusual directorial decisions. To set the play in a classroom, for example, is questionable, because surely Golding suggests that the order of the scholastic institution might be the only thing separating the boys from the beasts, so from the get-go, the message is a little mixed.
The timeframe, too, seems oddly incongruent. I would have understood the action to take place over a few days – which fits because it heightens the speed of the boys civil degeneration as well as being realistic, whereas to lengthen it to months raises a few too many questions – like why on earth the teacher and the rest of students didn’t find them sooner, or even, what were Ralph and his gang eating to stay alive?
In terms of characterisation, Jones procures for us Ralph (Daniel Garrett) and Jack (Nick Maclaine) very well. His treatment of Piggy (Izaak Lim) on the other hand, lurches over into bathos a few too many times. Lim himself is a fine performer, and very funny, but while I understand Ralph being exasperated with Piggy at times, in this case he was so annoying even I wanted to throttle him.
Jones’ vision of Simon (Daniel Clemens) too, is problematic, for while Ralph is known to be the personification of democracy, I understand Simon to be a reflection of intuition and spirituality. Clearly Jack finds him to be a bit misty-eyed, and yes, I understand his vision of the lord of the flies is probably some sort of hallucination, but in this production, Simon is edging a just little close to insanity. Having said that, Clemens’ performance of this somewhat misplaced lunacy is still very good.
And poor Thomas James as Perceval! What was he doing there, except getting in the way? It’s not a reflection of James, who rallies admirably here, but surely the last thing you want your audience to be doing when Jack and his gang uncover Ralph’s final hiding place, is to be laughing at Perceval’s ignorance. He’s supposed to be a little kid – not a moron!
Ah! Now I feel like a big bully! Overall, I was impressed by the cast, and the professionalism of the production. More subtlety and thematic cohesion are required to do Golding’s work the justice it deserves, but all these things are within the reach of this still developing director. I wish all involved the best of luck for this season and their future projects.
WhipLash Theatre presents
Lord of the Flies
Adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams
Directed by Gregory Jones
Venue: Subiaco Arts Centre (Main Auditorium), 180 Hamersley Road Subiaco
Dates/Times: Wed 24, Thurs 25, Fri 26, Sat 27 June at 7.30pm
Sat 27 June at 1.00pm (Matinee)
Wed 1, Thurs 2, Fri 3, Sat 4 July at 7.30pm
Bookings: BOCS (08) 9321 6831 OR 9484 1133 OR www.bocsticketing.com.au