Lyric Hammersmith, London W6/touring
Opened 18 January, 1999

I remember my O-Level English teacher, during a class on Lord Of The Flies, gleefully if inexplicably chanting, "Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! Do the Hucklebuck!" I was reminded of this by the triumphant dances of the hunters in Marcus Romer's production for Pilot Theatre (in association with York Theatre Royal and the Lyric Hammersmith), which has now entered London towards the end of a five-month tour. Having killed their first pig, Jack and his minions proceed to twitch semi-epileptically (possibly in a pre-echo of Simon the mystic's fit at the end of the first act) as the sounds of industrial techno fill the theatre; they even draw their fingers across their eyes in that Travolta-in-Pulp-Fiction move.

Clearly, this is not necessarily the 1950s vision in which William Golding's first novel was originally grounded. The boys marooned on a desert island by a plane crash dress in school clothes which could come from any period the choristers' uniforms of Jack's contingent, after all, look as anachronistic in a Fifties as a Nineties context. Nigel Williams's stage adaptation (slightly altered since its RSC premiere in 1995) uses the same lack of definition: modern-sounding lines such as Simon's "I bet we came from the sky and invaded this planet" or Ralph's warning to the off-message Piggy, "You undermined my authority", rub along comfortably with the public-school prejudices, paternalism and growing atavism exhibited by the boys. Williams also makes explicit the references to nuclear war which were almost completely excised from Golding's original manuscript by his Faber editor Charles Monteith.

Under Romer's direction, the cast of eight adult men steer well clear of embarrassing child-acting, although Danny Nutt's nasal drawl as Jack begins to grate a little. Nutt plays Jack as slightly hysterical, insecure in his command, from the start, rather than possessed throughout of the authority and certitude of a juvenile Colonel Kurtz. Jonah Russell and Faroque Khan nicely underplay where able the outsider aspects of Ralph and Simon respectively, and Neville Hutton's Piggy, whilst evidently cut from a different cloth from the public-schoolboys, invites ridicule from the sneering Jack but never from the audience. Ali Allen and Marise Rose's set design uses pivoting, tilting fragments of aeroplane fuselage and wing for the mountains, caves, huts and rocks of the island. Moreover, Pilot, as a young people's company, have decided to augment their education and outreach work by distributing a CD-ROM (designed by Warwick Pilmer and Tony Bonner) with each copy of the programme; by and large, this expands the information in the printed version rather than striking out in altogether new directions.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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