REVIEW: Lord of the Flies, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until October 3.

LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding,     , Author - William Golding, Director - Timothy Sheader, Co-Director - Liam Steel, Designer - Jon Bausor, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/ SUS-150930-222655003
LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author - William Golding, Director - Timothy Sheader, Co-Director - Liam Steel, Designer - Jon Bausor, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/ SUS-150930-222655003
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There’s a selfie stick; lack of 3G is lamented; and Ant & Dec get a mention.

But adapter Nigel Williams and director Timothy Sheader wisely and largely avoid any tinkering with the fundamentals, preferring instead to get to the heart of William Golding’s landmark novel as the basis for their excellent new production.

Designer Jon Bausor gives everyone precisely the platform on which to excel with his desert-island plane-crash set, offering the perfect mix of precise detail (strewn clothes) and suggestion (dense jungle and rocks) for this most sinister of tales to unravel.

The survivors of the plane crash start as young English gentleman; but civilisation is the most superficial of acquisitions in Golding’s world. Savagery soon erupts; but far more interesting is Golding’s depiction of the way superstition and ritual emerge, both to sustain the violence and restrain it.

Before long, school-room bully Jack (Freddie Watkins) is a face-painted savage, creating his own mythology amid all the madness. It’s a terrific performance from Watkins, matched by

Luke Ward-Wilkinson who shows us a Ralph clinging on to decency. In the middle of it all

Anthony Roberts is outstanding as the wise, but vulnerable Piggie; Matthew Castle’s Roger

is a brute who finds his expression in terror.

It’s a chilling, compelling portrait… one you could easily transpose just about anywhere foul things are happening, exactly the reason Golding’s tale is the classic it is.

There’s often the slight feeling that Southampton isn’t the best place to see drama. This production proves the feeling a total misperception. With its epic scale and its breath-taking set, Lord of the Flies lets the Mayflower shine as the perfect venue for dark, compelling theatre at its best in a production which flows beautifully and grips completely.

Phil Hewitt

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