Playwave Creative

REVIEW: Lord of the Flies

Reviewed by Lara Franzi

Taking an axe to the stage is Kip Williams’ rendition of Lord of the Flies a twisted tale of survival and status. From William Golding’s novel we follow the lives of eleven school students who were being evacuated from WW2, when their plane crash landed on an island. With their school uniforms as identification they form friendships and a hierarchy that divide them into prey and the hunters.

It was a very special night for Playwave and those attending, as there was a Q&A with Alexander Berlage the lighting designer, and James Brown the composer and sound designer before the show. This invited the audience to really notice the subtler details in the more practical stage elements that we experienced during the show.

Berlage’s lighting design formed a muscle around the show, commanding the stage in a way that I’ve never seen done before. He implemented dynamic lights that lowered onto the stage and became a part of the story and location. This effect heightened the character’s fear as they almost became blinded by the close lights that reflected their internal emotional states. Making them quick to jump to conclusions and act abruptly as they misinterpreted the information before them.

Brown’s sound design creeps up on you, it dissolves underneath heated arguments and dominates in reflective moments. It carried a didactic message, that each time felt almost too late for the characters to learn from as the conflict became unstoppable. The sound queues widened my attention as I was anticipating every move, wondering when the illusion of safety would drop for these characters.

Working together, Berlage and Brown’s specific elements brought out the play’s twisted fantasies, supplementing the character’s rationality in a weak and propagandist way. Everything was driven by emotion, and rarely by thought. This emotional drive is reflected in the chaotic and almost disjointed lighting and sound design that slip out of sync from the characters. Conflicts are so easily taken to the next level as these paranoid students adapt to their new leaders and their new role in survival.

Kip Williams balances the torment that these young students face between their internal and external fears. Their fear of bullies and fear of a beast test their personal morality, as panic consumes the island and the greater war in the world beyond them. It’s a powerful mirror into their domestic lives in the war, the echo of their parents and news reporters is heard in their voices. Divided between the prey and the hunters, they replicate the world they were trying to escape from. They brought a war to their isolated island and divided friends against each other.

This drives the one question that floats around the stage:

Is there a beast or is it just us?

It reveals the extent that humans will go to for power, revenge, and inevitability survival. Fear torments the mind and yanks out anger to combat the paranoia of the unknown. This inherent aggression and frustration are manifested by the shaky political leaders during WW2. As propaganda and control were used to mislead the public and to dehumanise the enemy. Even today this piece still bares relevance to our current government structure, and the abuse of power.

Kip Williams brought a brilliant light to ‘Lord of the Flies’ by casting all the roles between different genders and orientations. This draws further depth out from the piece as the idea of aggression and toxic masculinity can be applied to all people. This makes the story more relatable and hones in the idea that anybody could become a beast under the right pressure.

Exploring this piece in a quirky and enticing way made the evening so much more engaging. Ringing true to the text whilst opening the doors for a broader audience, Kip Williams’ ‘Lord of the Flies’ shares the faults of humanity and captures the essence of this timeless story.  

Sydney Theatre Company
Images by Zan Wimberley and Prudence Upton

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