Venue: Drama Barn
“What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?” Tackling William Golding’s seminal novel that delves into the dark recesses of human nature is never easy, but under Anna Mawn and Rosie O’Sullivan’s direction, the DramaSoc’s latest offering managed to shed new light on the story we’ve been so familiar with.
Instantly establishing the mood with a beautifully unruly set containing a sinister playground set covered in leaves and vines and appropriate soundscapes, DramaSoc has, once again, outdone themselves. Transforming the humble Drama Barn into a deserted island stung with the remnants of a plane crash and lingering reminders of the corrupted innocence of the characters with the well-dressed playground, the set married realism and symbolism. Enough to get lost in a fictional world and still be intelligently thought-provoking. Aside from the occasional missed-cue, the lights were cleverly designed, effectively creating a split stage with no physical demarcations.
Despite astounding physicality and all the thespians acting to the best of their abilities, casting was the biggest letdown of the night. In a story where the dichotomy between savage masculinity and the idea of the civilised gentleman are so crucial to its foundation, the choice to cast females as some of the schoolboys detracted from the male power dynamic that Golding’s novel – and its adaptation – originally explored. Although all the performances by female actors were extremely commendable with energy and physicality to match (or even rival) that of the male actors, their physiological femininity still diluted the sense of male camaraderie. More a fault of casting, Emily Thane and Elvie Broom were particularly impressive as the loveable duo ‘Samneric’, demonstrating a huge emotional range, something that Stewart Crank (as Roger), with all his convincingly vicious brutality, occasionally missed.
Interestingly, the two leads, Ralph and Jack (played by James Esler and Max FitzRoy-Stone respectively) were diametrically opposed, and yet, seemed as though they were almost cast against-type. Esler, with a bigger build, would seem like an obvious choice for the arrogant, power-hungry and slightly insecure Jack, but he managed to bring a quietly powerful subtlety to Ralph. Finding his initial childishness slightly cloying, it later made perfect sense as the cruelty he witnesses slowly robs him of his innocence, setting a wonderful trajectory for his character as he is forced into maturity. FitzRoy-Stone, though not immediately filling the role of Jack with his slightly nerdy demeanour in the beginning, managed to bring a refreshingly sensitive vulnerability as we see flashes of the scared schoolboy under the cracks of a hardened exterior.
However, the one person who truly stole the entire show was none other than Joseph D’Angelo who acted as Piggy. From the outset, he was instantly likeable, with a stuttering lisp and numerous quotes from his auntie hilariously well-played. He also demonstrated incredible range in the quietly brilliant moment sitting on the beach with Ralph as he ruminated no longer being able to remember his infamous auntie, heart-warmingly contrasted with his assuring Ralph that he’d remember his face – a true testament of his loyalty.
The DramaSoc’s brave adaptation was wonderfully nuanced with shades of humanity intermingled with barbaric savagery that is very rare to find in stage performances of Lord of the Flies.