19 January 2016

Lord of the Flies at Richmond Theatre

I am growing to love Richmond Theatre again. The reason for that is shows like To Kill a Mockingbird so when the people behind that returned with Lord of the Flies then obviously I was interested.

Like Mockingbird, I had never read this book either but unlike Mockingbird I had not the slightest idea what the story was about.

With Richmond Theatre featuring in my calendar more often the routine beforehand is becoming more settled and that means going to The Railway for a beer (a nice California Blonde from Conwy Brewery) and some food (nachos, again). There is nothing special about the pub but it is reasonable enough, I have to walk past it to get to the theatre and the food is quick.

Also routine is where I sat in the theatre, Dress Circle Row A Seat 17 which cost me a fair £37.50.

The book was obviously on the school reading lists and there were a lot of children there to revise the story.

With the safety curtain up the set was visible as I took my seat and either the few stewards there did not see me take several pictures or they were not bothered, I suspect the later. I like it when theatres let people take pictures like this and the more that they work to stop it the more I get frustrated with them. I simply do not understand why theatres actively fight to stop people promoting their shows.

That stage was largely filled with a wrecked plane, like the opening of Lost but without people being sucked into the engines. The front of the stage was littered with luggage and strands of green cloth filled the back to represent a jungle. On to this stage stumbled a few schoolboys, aged in their mid-teens.

If you have read the book then you will know what happened next but I had not so I had to try and make sense of what was happening on the stage. This was not trivial as the one set became many things and sometimes there were two sets of people on stage and the same time but oblivious to each other as they were in different places.

The story was more one of suspicion and suspense than of action (though there were some deaths) and this production made up for that by making the boys scramble and jump extravagantly whenever possible. That physical movement kept my attention when the movement of the story was more gently paced.

The boys soon realised that they were the sole survivors of the crash with little prospect of a quick rescue. What then started as a holiday was interrupted by the need to find food, tribal divisions and then a near-war. It was hard to tell how quickly this all happened but somebody with me who had read the book said that it was over weeks when, from the staging, it could have been thought to have been just days, or even hours. I think that the lack of an obvious time line was something of a weakness but it may be that everybody else had read the book and so did not have this problem.

Despite my failing to read the book, I found Lord of the Flies engaging and it had plenty of good moments, such as in the early innocent days when a group of boys first go hunting for food. Their enthusiasm and imagination reminded me of the adventures that boys like William and The Outlaws got up to when Surrey was littered with smugglers and pirates. It was that clash of fantasy and reality that gave Lord of the Flies its purpose. The clash was both violent and neatly presented to make an enthralling evening.

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