Review: Lord Of The Flies at Northern Stage

Review: Lord Of The Flies at Northern Stage

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams)

Northern Stage – 3rd May 2023

I have to say that I am quite exhausted having witnessed this energetic and emotionally traumatic performance from this extremely talented company of actors this evening. For those that do not know the original text, a group of youngsters are stranded on an island amid the backdrop of a particularly brutal war and are left to fend for themselves until they hope they will be rescued. Personal battles ensue as hierarchies and gangs are formed in a brutal study of human nature in the face of survival in exceedingly difficult circumstances. The book by William Golding has been a mainstay on many a secondary school’s English Literature syllabus for many years and I suspect it will continue to remain so.

The audience are welcomed immediately into the island with a stark set indicating the tropical trees and a hill which perfectly provides a backdrop to the action that is to follow. Behind the dark trees is a pleated but plain white-ish cloth which projects the superbly effective lighting plot beautifully and adds some dramatic moments as the story unfolds. The set and costumes are all brilliantly executed by Max Johns.

The whole company really deserves a mention but I will be here all night were I to comment on each performance individually. To the cast I give a hearty round of applause but there were some performances that it would be a crime not to mention. We are introduced first to Ralph (Angela Jones) who assumes the role of the leader of the group in the early stages of the play. She plays the part with great skill and her torment at the atrocities she observes feel genuine and not at all forced. She is joined by the adorable Piggy (Jason Connor) who gives an understated and accomplished performance as the sensitive but grounded member of the team who tries fervently to keep order in the face of increasing challenges from the other members of the group. 

The villain of the piece is Jack who starts off as a prefect of his school choir adorned in the appropriate garb but soon takes over as the leader of a faction. Patrick Dineen plays this role perfectly morphing from a lanky streak of slightly effeminate house boy into a tyrant with effortless ease. 

This is a company that welcomes diversity in its cast and displays this in the cast members themselves as well as in the narrative of the play with two of the characters Henry (Aki Nakagawa) and Eric (Ciaran O’Breen) being portrayed as deaf or deafened characters with appropriate sign language being used by all the cast members at various points in the show. There is a lovely exchange between Eric and Henry midway through the first act which is presented entirely without speech and with sign language which was a joy for me, a hearing person, to enjoy and totally understand. 

My standout performance of the evening goes to Adam Fenton who plays the sensitive, neuro-divergent Simon who is clearly already being subjected to bullying by Jack, long before the latter shows his true colours within the context of the narrative. Fenton plays this part with great sensitivity and the audience really warms to this beautiful and loving character. It would be extremely easy to over act this challenging role but they do not do this and it is testament to the actor’s obvious ability and understanding of the part. 

I have no doubt that there were significant challenges bringing this hard-hitting study of human nature to the stage but director Amy Leach can be immensely proud indeed of a job well done. The lighting and soundscape were impeccable throughout and while I do not think my sanity could cope with seeing this traumatic story again, I have no hesitation to recommend that anyone who has not seen this superb production makes haste to do so before the run ends at Northern Stage. 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Adapted for the Stage by Nigel Williams) runs at Northern Stage until 6th May 2023.

– Stephen Stokoe

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