Savage hearts: Lord of The Flies revived in Sheffield

It is a story that continues to inspire – and horrify – generations.

Freddie Wakins and Luke Ward-Wilkinson. Picture: Johan Persson
Freddie Wakins and Luke Ward-Wilkinson. Picture: Johan Persson

In 1954 William Golding, who would go on to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983, published his debut novel. Although his follow-up books included the Booker Prize winning Rites of Passage, it was this first story that has captured the imaginations of subsequent generations. Lord of the Flies is a story that feels like it comes from a time when we sat around camp fires sharing tales with each other. There is something special about it, that talks to our base natures.

In the novel, a group of schoolboys survive a plane crash and, what might have been a classic desert island adventure takes a terrifying turn when the group descends into chaos and an elemental struggle for survival.

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Such is the power of Golding’s central idea that it has inspired many other storytellers over the years, leading to several screen and stage versions of the story – last year choreographer Matthew Bourne brought it to the stage in a dance version that toured the country, and York-based Pilot Theatre Company created a popular stage version of the story.

Next week yet another new production arrives in Yorkshire, this time from the Regent’s Park Theatre. After visiting Sheffield Lyceum next week the production, which has received impressive reviews in London, will return to Yorkshire in March next year, visiting the Bradford Alhambra.

Luke Ward-Wilkinson plays the conscience of the story, Ralph, in the production. Having appeared in several TV shows, Ward-Wilkinson is a draw to the production for young audiences, but it is the story that he hopes his young fans will remember when the curtain comes down. He says: “Ralph’s role is leader. He endeavours to maintain rules and civility; the main objective during his leadership is to be found and rescued. He is guided by the moral compass that is his friend Piggy, but it is essentially Ralph who must strive to keep order among a community of lost boys, some of whom have no desire to be found or rescued at all. Most of them are followers and will step in line to the next alpha male, regardless of their morally confused and savage-like agendas.”

Despite an impressive television CV, this is Ward-Wilkinson’s stage debut – and taking on the role of Ralph is one he is clearly relishing.

“Honestly, for the first time in my life I get to enjoy people looking at me. That sounds bizarre and egotistical, but I’ve never played a character with so much responsibility, or a character who is essentially a leader. Nor am I in anyway leader-like in my personal life. I’ve always loved to perform and to act, but off set or off stage, I’ve always lead a very normal, family orientated life. I’m the youngest of four brothers and sisters so I’ve never had that sense of someone looking up to me before,” he says.

“When I’m working with the rest of the cast, and I’m giving one of Ralph’s motivational speeches with everyone on the island looking at me with admiration, it has an impact on me – on Luke as well as Ralph. I’ve never got to feel that way before, and now I get to experience a taste of it through Ralph.

“So far Lord of the Flies has been a sensational experience. I’m honestly having the time of my life.

• Lord of the Flies, Sheffield Lyceum, November 10-14. 0114 2496000. Bradford Alhambra, March 1-15, 2016.