Review: 21st century kids still aren’t alright
Theatre: Lord of the Flies, Bord Gais Energy Theatre.
Published 27/11/2015 | 07:00
Boys will be boys. Unless they're marooned, I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! style, on a tropical island. In which case they will inevitably descend into homicidal bestiality and end up smeared in blood, worshipping a pig's head on a stick.
Such was the buzzkill message of William Golding's 1954 classic Lord Of The Flies - a proto-Mad Max, with raving prepubescents in place of gun-waggling road warriors.
The novel receives a Gen Y makeover in Nigel Williams' adaptation, first staged in London in 2011 and now revived by Regent's Park Theatre, whose version of To Kill A Mocking Bird was a hit at BGE Theatre last May.
This maniacal retelling embraces chaos from the beginning with the castaway adolescents - a Hogwarts-eque rainbow of toffs and oiks - speaking at 100 km/h and moving in delirious bursts, like members of a junior rugby team who've just had their first sip of alcohol behind the bike shed.
As with much British theatre, class overtones are laid on with a trowel. Overweight Piggy (Anthony Roberts) sounds like an extra from Emmerdale while black-hearted head boy Jack (Connor Brabyn) seems to have parachuted in from the officers' mess at Sandhurst.
Audiences will be in little doubt as where their boos should be directed.
Production values are first rate (the fusillade of the downed airliner that conveyed the children to the island dominates the stage, a poignant symbol of the civilisation they've left behind).
But Lord of the Flies ultimately suffers from trying too hard. Updated for the 21st century, the cast's estuary banter sweeps you away from Golding to the world of Channel 4 "yoof" programming (a selfie-moment early on raises some chuckles).
Moreover, the production reveals its hand too early with noble Ralph (Luke Ward-Wilkinson) and vicious Jack embodying from the outset the clashing calls of order and libertarian anarchy.
A dash of subtlety might not have gone amiss.