Preview: Lord of the Flies

A stage production of William Golding's classic story will shortly be arriving in Bradford.

Stage version of William Golding's classic Lord of the Flies.
Stage version of William Golding's classic Lord of the Flies.

The difficulty with staging Lord of the Flies lies in the story itself.

William Golding’s stunning novel tells the story of a group of schoolboys stranded on an island. The boys set up a society which quickly falls apart, descending into chaos and violence. It is regularly recognised as one of the best English language novels of the past century; the story is thrilling and terrifying – and it is about a group of teenage boys.

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Trying to find actors with both the youthful exuberance and the emotional maturity to tell the story on stage is the major obstacle to overcome if the story is to be turned into a piece of theatre.

Fortunately for the makers – and the audience – of a new tour of the stage version, some of the brightest young talent of the British acting world has been recruited to tell the story. The production, which arrives in at the Alhambra in Bradford next week, is coming to Yorkshire on the back of rave reviews following a run at London’s Regent’s Park Theatre.

The cast includes several young actors already with acres of acting experience behind them. Freddie Watkins, who featured alongside David Tennant in the British movie Nativity and its sequel takes the role of Jack and Luke Ward-Wilkinson, who spent three years playing Evan Trevanion in ITV’s Wild at Heart opposite Amanda Holden and Stephen Tompkinson, plays Ralph in the production.

Ward-Wilkinson says: “I think it really is one of the great stories, a genuine timeless classic in literature.” The story, a moral warning in the tradition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, describes how the group of schoolboys, stranded on an island following a plane crash, descend into madness. Jack and Ralph find themselves on opposite sides of a battle for survival. Watkins says: “Jack starts off as a teacher’s pet, inherently nervous and manipulative and a bit annoying. It’s fascinating how the nature of the island reflects his power, he gets drunk on that and has a decline into a primal chieftain leader, releasing his anger.

“There is something therapeutic about playing the role – there is a tiny bit in all of us that is Jack’s need for control. I do find every other line he says is said not thinking, it’s just an impulse, there’s a reservoir of energy in the character.”Lord of the Flies has a thrilling denouement. Golding has a brilliant moment at the climax when the humanity of his characters is put front and centre. The boys, heading to what seems inevitable bloodletting, come across a naval officer and Golding tells us that ‘Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart... the officer turned away to give them time to pull themselves together’.

Ward-Wilkinson says: “I think it’s such an atmospheric play, from the very beginning the audience are thrown into the middle of this incredibly dangerous playground.”

Watkins agrees: “I think there’s something really boxed in and close about it. As for the visceral nature, it feels really creepy because of the degrading of the personalities and the way it looks at just how far people will go to this dark side of themselves and of human nature. It draws people in and immerses them.”

March 1-5. 01274 432000.