Lord of the Flies showing that a tribal approach can lead to a greater good

ACM Lord of the Flies - photo by Mark GambinoSet in a deserted theatre instead of an island, the Sir Matthew Bourne’s adaptation of the classic Lord of the Flies examines the descent from civilisation to savagery through dance.

Lord of the Flies is synonymous with the darker elements of human nature, whether one’s first introduction was through the 1954 novel by William Golding or its more recent 1990 film adaptation. It explores confronting and relevant themes still relevant today such as discrimination, control of the masses, idol worship, the fine line between what we consider order and outright chaos, and the brutal side of human nature. It is quite surprising then to see such a production providing an opportunity for community engagement and inclusion.

Re:Bourne, the charitable arm of Bourne’s New Adventures, engages with communities to foster emerging talent of all ages and ability. For Lord of the Flies, this involved hosting 50 workshops across Victoria for 450 young men, with 23 chosen for the production from 107 auditions (a third of which were from regional areas) whose ages ranged from 10 to 25. The talent selected joined the cast of nine professional dancers, and together formed this production for a limited series at Arts Centre Melbourne.

Even as a mixture of professional and amateur dance, Lord of the Flies did not have any faults in the production value. Each of the three leads, Dominic North (Ralph), Daniel Wright (Jack) and Luke Murphy (Piggy) held their own as personifications of different elements of human nature, each supported by the other dancers in a raw display of human emotion.

I was apprehensive about adapting the storyline to an abandoned theatre, and the elegant and somewhat dystopian approach designed by Lez Brotherston (restaged by Etta Murfitt) certainly set the mood, complemented by the lighting by Chris Davey.  There was also no faulting the music by Terry Davies, and even before the show commenced, the noises heard created the mystery to what circumstance led to these school boys to be locked away in an abandoned theatre (Paul Groothuis, Sound Design).

Unfortunately, the narrative itself did not add to the mystery, and as such it was questionable whether such an adaptation was a success as there was no clear justification for the change in setting. And while the production faithfully followed the storyline of the original book, there was a lack of artistic movement to embrace new metaphors and symbolism that could rise from a theatre amidst a supposedly near-apocalyptic backdrop.

The transferal of the most iconic symbol of the story, the pig’s head, was handled quite haphazardly and without the needed attention. The power of dance also could have allowed more confronting and darker themes to be addressed that would never be possible in a regular theatre production.

This incarnation of the Lord of the Flies was a success as a dance production, a relevant story that everyone should know, and hopefully learn from. It also sets a shining example to other companies on how to create greater inclusion within a community. Perhaps I was seeking deeper meaning in the context, however, Lord of the Flies is still a gratifying work, though it does pays to know the story beforehand to enjoy all the subtleties.

Lord of the Flies
State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Wednesday 5 April 2017 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 9 April 2017
Information and Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

Image: Lord of the Flies – photo by Mark Gambino

Review: Jimmy Twin