We were recently invited to St Swithun’s School, Winchester, to watch their dramatic adaptation of Lord of the Flies. As St Swithun’s is an all-girls school, this was the first all-female version of Lord of the Flies I had seen, which has certainly been a hot topic of late! The director, Lillian Leadbetter, commented that she
‘aimed to present a more gender neutral take on the story; it is the human being, neither male or female, who is the subject of our scrutiny’.
As the production followed Nigel Williams’ adaptation of the novel, the original names and script remained in place, and it was therefore easy to forget that young women were portraying the characters; indeed, it certainly felt like a gender-neutral story. However, I felt particularly shaken by some of the bullying towards Piggy, and this was, I think, because Jack and the hunters were played by girls – it spoke more clearly to me as someone who was once a teenage girl.
In addition to the script, the director decided to include some of Golding’s most evocative passages, which were read by some of the characters while the scene paused. This was a tremendous idea and the death of Simon was emphasised by this beautiful description:
‘The great wave of the tide moved further along the island and the water lifted. Softly, surrounded by a fringe of inquisitive bright creatures, itself a silver shape beneath the steadfast constellations, Simon’s dead body moved out towards the open sea.’
The performances were excellent, and much credit is due to the young actors. Eliza Densham as Jack was particularly striking and at times, terrifying. Her performance was complemented by Katie Harvey as Ralph, whose particular highlight came at the end of the show. Harvey gave a heart-breaking performance when the Naval Officers arrived to disrupt that final thrilling chase, remembering the loss of Piggy, and the devastation of the island. The most frightening character in the novel is Roger and Bella Monkcom’s performance certainly lived up to Golding’s version. As she deliberated pushing Piggy to her death, there was an uncomfortable tension throughout the theatre. Isabella Barton played Piggy with just the right level of priggishness and tragedy and also provided some much-needed comic relief during the opening of the play. I really enjoyed Robyn Manser’s performance as Simon – she infused the character with a streak of rebellion which brought a freshness to the character. Kassie Williams (Sam) and Annie Liddell (Eric) had the unenviable task of finishing each other’s sentences, and speaking in tandem, which they pulled off beautifully.
The staging was inspired, and the director made excellent use of the stage and the whole theatre in the lovely Harvey Hall at St Swithun’s. Jack’s choir entered through the aisles, mingling with the audience, and the stage was often divided into two to portray the warring factions.
It was a delight to watch this production and we were so impressed with the professionalism and performance of the actors. I’m sure we will see some of them again…
Conversation with the cast
By Judy Carver (Golding)
I had a really enjoyable meeting with the cast of Lord of the Flies on Thursday afternoon, actually in their lunch hour, which was kind of them, especially given the demands which the day already made on them. A very thoughtful group of young women who raised some excellent points, from observing that ‘Ralph isn’t perfect’ to ‘this could happen anywhere’.
We discussed the extent to which my father based the characters on children he knew, and I told them about the original twins from which he took the characters of Sam and Eric. The character of Roger puzzled several of the cast, as well it might. However, I’m glad to say that the portrayal of this character on stage was said to be ‘completely believable’ and ‘really scary’, with which I absolutely agree. Roger is hard to understand and I think perhaps my father felt so too. One of the cast asked me who was my favourite character – and I replied that it was Ralph, though I must say I’m very fond of Sam and Eric, counting them (as my father did) as one character.
We shared some discussion about the need for women to have more of a voice, and not be constrained by traditional norms of femininity, and I was glad to meet so many calm and confident young speakers. Finally, I was asked what my father would have thought about his characters being portrayed by women, and in reply I quoted his perhaps rather defiant declaration:
‘I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men; they are far superior and always have been.’
I’m glad to say this was greeted with laughter. Then it was time for classes again.