Lord of the Flies – Tyranny on stage
S.Thomas’ College presents a modern take on the classic, “Lord of the Flies”
Before “The Maze Runner” or “The Hunger Games” whisked young adult readers and movie buffs to a darker side of childhood, writer William Golding was doing the same in 1957 with a group of young British boys, stranded on a tropical island, left to survive to their own increasingly savage devices. Disturbing, violent and chillingly human, “Lord of the Flies” began as an allegory of humanity by the Nobel-Prize winning author following World War II. The iconic book has been transformed into two movies, taught at schools and next weekend S.Thomas’ College will bring their version of the classic to the stage.
Based on Nigel Williams’ adaptation of the story, theirs will be a modern take on the 20th century masterpiece with a few tweaks to the script and costumes. Keeping with the original storyline, the story opens against a backdrop of war, when a plane evacuating a group of British schoolboys crashes on a deserted tropical island. Left alone, without adult supervision the group of 6-12-year-olds slowly descend from the civilized orderly leadership of Ralph to chaos, savagery and murder under the tyranny of the island’s ‘bully’ Jack.
When we meet the cast at practice in the College hall, the scene is thankfully the opposite of the island they plan to create. “We’re training them to feel the isolation,” explain the directors, who hope to transform the stage into the exotic but lonely background as realistically as possible.
For 19-year-old Sebastian Sansoni, the sheer physical intensity of the play and the barbarity they are supposed to channel are the biggest challenges he faces. Sebastian plays Ralph, the story’s protagonist and good-guy leader who uses his role to take care of the others and try to find a way off the island. But for Sebastian, Ralph isn’t 100% golden boy material. “It’s interesting to see how Ralph will handle things,”the experienced young actor says mysteriously. As the play progresses and Ralph’s order collapses “things get blurred” he adds, and our hero becomes “a passenger to the chaos that emerges.”
For every Frodo there’s a Sam and in Ralph’s case; there’s a Piggy. In vicious tween humour “Piggy” is just that- bespectacled, asthmatic and on the heavier side.
Although Golding’s Piggy is the stereotypical butt-end of every joke and is physically weaker than the others, he remains one of the smartest and most mature boys on the island- even more than Ralph, although he is dependent on him for his survival. When 16-year-old Akil Ismail first read the book “however human you may be, if you’re not regulated your savageness can come out,” he thinks back. Piggy’s friendship with Ralph, he says, is based on trust and dependence. But amidst the terrors that follow on the island “Piggy is symbolic of innocence.”
On the other side of the spectrum is Jack – the resident villain of the story. Anuk Dharmasena says he initially found the book “pretty horrifying” and later found himself cast as the bloodthirsty choirboy turned savage who becomes the threat to Ralph’s leadership. “He wants to be seen as an adult,” Anuk explains -he feeds off the others’ fear of the beast that apparently roams the island. The play’s stereotypical bully, he is also Piggy’s tormentor but Anuk thinks that it’s because Jack sees Piggy as a threat. ”I dont want to be cliché but I enjoy playing the role,” laughs the ironically soft spoken 18-year-old. These days he’s channelling his favourite villain- Dr. Hannibal Lecter as he preps for the play, hoping the audience too understands the fear first hand. “I hope it makes them think twice.”
Adding a touch of comedy to the play is Dhanuk Fernando who plays Maurice. One of the play’s funnier, more light-hearted characters, 18-year-old Dhanuk admits that he was given the role because the directors thought it matched his personality, he shrugs, smiling. Maurice he says is a boy “who just wanted to go home” and experiences shorts sparks of guilt and fear amid his playfulness.
Rounding up most of Jack’s gang is Roger played by 16-year-old Shokeidh Billimoria. When Shokeidh first came across the story as part of the school syllabus “I thought it was a typical children’s story,” he says. The same goes for Roger, who beats out Jack and the others for the story’s most dangerous character. “He is very closed off,” the youngster explains. The character with the least amount of backstory Roger is mysterious to say the least. “Jack is a necessary evil,” Shokeidh explains.
But Roger, who comes across as Jack’s second in command is alienated by choice, unlike the others and takes real pleasure in being evil. For Shokeidh, Roger is a lot like Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal as the Joker- “he takes people’s fear and twists it.”
The book’s recognizable name comes from one of its most complex characters- Simon, the quiet outsider with the most mature outlook of the lot. Playing the complicated role is Randev Jayasinha (18) who “is still confused by the character” he admits. Despite being the play’s conscience, Simon “keeps his views to himself.” “I initially thought he was weak,” but he slowly realized the depth of the young boy’s character. What makes Simon an eternal fan favourite is that “everybody knows a Simon”- a relatable, sympathetic character who “lives in his own world.”
Playing Percival; the play’s youngest “little un” are Shilendra Hewawasam (13) and Kiren Ranatunga (16). Percival adds to the heartbreak of the story- “He’s the youngest of the lot” the two explain, and is oblivious to most of the danger and tension brewing between the others.
For the cast, their practices are supposed to bring the ‘worst’ parts of them, exploring the inner brutality that is ticking away inside everyone- the idea Golding wrote about more than 60 years ago. “It’s a lot more than flies,” they crack up, when they recall having to explain the play to others. But for the boys if they can change their audience’s perception of humanity – the curtain will close on a production well done.
The English Drama Society of S.Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia presents William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams on February 23rd, 24th & 25th at 7.30 p.m. at the Lionel Wendt Theatre. Tickets available at the Lionel Wendt box office priced at Rs. 2000, 1500, 1000 and 800 (Balcony).For more details check out their Facebook page at Lord of the Flies