Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre presents twelve boys running wild on a desert island, delivering the performance of their lives in the epic production of the timeless literary classic, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
Come rain or shine, the show must go on at the open air theatre. Adapted by Nigel Williams and directed by the theatre’s resident Artistic Director Timothy Sheader, this summer the stage plays host to a stunning set for Lord of the Flies, featuring real fire and a genuine aeroplane part. The play begins in daylight when the boys find themselves crash-landed and can’t help but jump at the prospect of a grown-up free island, theirs for the taking. But as darkness descends on the theatre and the plot, they turn on each other and what unfolds is rather more sinister than the book we last read as school children. Suddenly, Danny Boyle’s The Beach and the TV series LOST seem that bit less original.
Tackling the core of the human condition, Golding – realised for the modern day through Williams and Sheader – exposes the fine line between humanity and barbarity, the us vs. them, good vs. evil, strong vs. weak mould that’s haunted centuries of fiction. It’s a nightmare and an allegory. The young cast give every line their all, unafraid of the unpredictable weather despite often being in their underpants and accommodating the intermittent bird squarks with dramatic pauses. It’s an intimate, coming-of-age performance in more ways than one, with a lot of heart. Following the opening this week, i-D Online spoke with Timothy Sheader about story telling, plane sets and team players.
Why Lord of the Flies? I love the story, I like the descent into savagery, the balance of the innate goodness and innate badness in man, and the debate about which is dominant, and whether that’s a sociological thing or genetic thing… are we pre-disposed to be bad? I think it’s got great historical and contemporary resonance. It’s an allegory for the world at large.
How relevant do you think it is for today’s audience? I think it’s totally relevant in terms of how we behave and what choices we make and what man does when he’s depressed and what man does when he’s in crisis and how he treats his neighbour. The boys arrive and say ‘this is our island’ and they start with hope and are filled with love and joy for this piece of land that’s theirs, and a couple of months later they’ve destroyed it.
Why do you think it works in an open air theatre? It’s the elemental thing, having all that real fire, the boys talk about smoking people out with fire, and on a good night that’s literally what you see. It really does depend which way the wind is blowing! It’s being outside with an audience connecting with this visceral, elemental story. I try to do plays and stories that will benefit from the day to night transition.
How did you cast the boys? We saw about 400 boys. They came and made a speech and did scenes in pairs and then we did a whole day with about 70 boys. For most of them it’s their first job. Piggy has just left drama school, as has Jack, Ralph is still in sixth form and Simon is 16 and has just left school. It’s been a massive learning curve for them, and for me. It’s been a brilliant process. I really respect and like them, they work so hard and what they can’t deliver in skill they’ll deliver in effort. Their work ethic is fantastic.
How did you visualise the set? Are you pleased with how it turned out? Yes I love it. When I decided I wanted to do the show I immediately knew I wanted a real plane on stage, which isn’t without problems. The plane becomes a metaphor, it becomes a playground, I mean they are on an island and they are experiencing these things but hopefully you watch and wonder ‘Oh are they just on a playground, are they just playing, is this really happening?’
Any idea what you’ll do next season? I have several ideas but can’t divulge too much. I like to do stories that people have heard of but we try to tell it a little bit differently or imagine it differently.
Lord of the Flies runs at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 18th June. For tickets to see the play and further information on the theatre’s other entertainment including comedy, film screenings and live music, visit openairtheatre.org