Lord of the Flies
Next Stage Youth Theatre
The Mission Theatre

Murder. Bloodlust. Discrimination. The disintegration of civilisation. Not themes you would normally associate with a youth theatre group, but in Ann Garner’s production of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Next Stage Youth master them with enviable skill.

The story is a well known one – a planeload of British schoolboys crashes on a remote tropical island during the Second World War. Despite an initial attempt to follow the ‘rules’ of society, the boys soon descend into chaos and wind up murdering two of their number. The play ends with their rescue– although one suspects that a substantial part of them will always remain trapped on the island, mired in brutality and carnage.

James Langley is excellent as Ralph, giving a convincing performance of an essentially decent boy unable to cope with the demands of a power he is too young to wield.

Piggy, Ralph’s self-proclaimed lieutenant, is brought starkly to life by Andrew Collins –self-conscious, scared and stubbornly ‘civilised’, he delivers some of the most moralising lines of the play with an impressive fervour… Similarly, Ben Armstrong as the vague and ostracised Simon is also highly arresting – both boys exude a nervous tension that excites both the antagonism of the other boys and the sympathies of the audience.

Louis Judge-Hodkinson as ‘Littleun’ Perceval is at first heart-rendingly fearful and lost – his transformation from terror to cold-eyed cruelty is perhaps the most striking of the play.

Will Greensides and Dan Richards also deserve a mention as the twins, Sam and Eric – it is far from easy to jump someone else’s lines convincingly, yet both boys manage it with an irresistible charm.

Of the Hunters, who split off from the original tribe of boys, Yugo Jaques gives a masterful performance as their leader, Jack – jumping from all-consuming bloodlust, to violent dictator, to a boy lost in a world that has spiralled out of his control. However, it is his relationship with Roger (Ed Hodcroft) that most draws the eye, as the two have a subtle and effective chemistry – Ed Hodcroft plays Roger with a menacing, barely repressed brutality that at times terrifies even the seemingly unflappable Jack.

Dexter Evans and James Head are also good as Maurice and Bill, playing them with an adventurous excitement that becomes a fearful submissiveness as the violence spirals out of control.

The set was effective, as was the lighting design – in fact the only thing that jarred about the entire performance was a rather unrealistic scream effect used in the second act, which in my opinion is unnecessary in such a fraught and central scene.

Overall though, the production is of a very high standard – both subtly sinister and explicitly brutal, it is easy to forget that the cast are all in their teens.

Try to catch it if you can – you’ll not regret it, even if it does make you question your own degree of civilisation.

Louise Heavey

Lord of the Flies runs until Saturday at the Mission Theatre.