Posted by: culturescouse | September 11, 2014

Lord of the Flies (New Adventures) – Liverpool Empire

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from a dance performance of Lord of Flies. I’ve never read the book (or seen the films), but I had a good idea of the basics of the story, and it seemed pretty complicated to try and tell in the form of dance. I shouldn’t have worried though, because I thought the show was amazing.

First of all, the whole concept is fantastic. The show came out of a community/education project in Glasgow, where a small cast of professional dancers worked alongside 24 local boys, many of whom had never danced before. It was a massive success, so they brought it nationwide, and each venue has its own cast of 24 local boys, performing every night. And you know what? You couldn’t tell that they weren’t professional dancers. I don’t know how long they’d been working for before performance, and some of them have had experience, but I think that’s phenomenal. Apparently some of the boys from the original Glasgow company have gone on to dance schools and are working towards a career in dance. How amazing is that?

Having said all that, those boys are only the ensemble. The lead roles are taken by the professionals, and obviously they have most of the complicated dancing to do. And boy do they do it well. It’s no surprise to anyone that I love Matthew Bourne’s work. This show was actually choreographed by Scott Ambler, but he’s clearly influenced by his boss, and he and Bourne co-directed it. I wasn’t sure how you’d convert a story like Lord of the Flies to dance, but it really, really works, and the scene at the end of the first act, when the feral boys kill a pig was one of the most exhilarating and horrifying things I’ve seen on a stage. There was a real sense of danger and chaos coming from them, helped by the music obviously, and it was an amazing way to end the first act. The scenes where two of the boys are killed, and the attempted murder of another, evoked a similar feeling. It was utterly thrilling. And Danny Reubens, who was playing Jack, was fantastic. I mean, all the pros were (although I wasn’t entirely sure Sam Archer showed enough authority for Ralph), but Reubens really shone for me, exuding the kind of charisma a leader should have, even if the character doesn’t use it in the way he should. I also loved Layton Williams as Simon, because his dancing was beautiful and graceful, and very much had a dreamlike quality to it. It looks like this is his first show since graduating from Italia Conti and I think he has great things ahead of him.

I also thought the move from a desert island to an abandoned theatre was really well done and only added to the concept. They used the whole place – at the beginning they find the light switch which lights the auditorium, and they trudge through the seats when they forage for food and try to find a way out. Some of the ways they ‘translated’ the book were ingenious – a falling spotlight instead of a boulder, for example, and the conch shell becomes a Shell oil drum they find in the wings. Some things get lost though – I had no idea who Jack’s lieutenants were for example, and it took a while to work out what was going on sometimes. I imagine if you really don’t know the story at all, you could end up completely baffled, but then I suspect that they’ve worked off the idea that most people have some idea what it’s about.

So overall, I loved it. It was really clever and involving, and the entire cast was brilliant. I definitely recommend catching it if it’s on anywhere near you. You won’t be disappointed.

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