The Park’s 21st century Lord Of The Flies still pulled back to the past

Lord of the Flies Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre 4/5

�This spine-chillingly atmospheric staging of William Golding’s tale of marooned schoolboys going feral gets an A+ for ambition and set, but a C- for the script. Updating Golding’s 50s-set novel, these disparate schoolboys are stranded on an island by a terrorist bomb. Disembowelled suitcases spill from a shattered fuselage, clothes flutter from branches, an aircraft engine is lodged in the stalls.

The parkland glade is the perfect setting for this boys’ own adventure gone bad but, despite the iPods and laptops, Nigel Williams’ frustratingly plodding adaptation remains defiantly Blyton-era. In an overlong first act that cries out for judicious pruning, we see this pack of adult-free, half-formed boys shrug off public school rules and divide into types – the alpha males, the sidekicks, the weaklings.

The slicker Act II makes terrific use of the fading light, as they become two tribes, one, hunting the other. There are blood-stirring movement and fight sequences as the increasingly savage boys become isolated by their inner fears, embodied by a mythical shape-shifting beast.

Thoroughly decent Ralph (Alistair Toovey) is at first excited by the possibilities of the island’s open space but, after the frenzied murder of epileptic Simon, he retreats into a few sheltered square feet of it.

Idiot savant Piggy also falls foul of former prefect Jack, who drums on collective bloodlust as he indulges his primal urge to hunt pigs, and then humans, with sharpened sticks.

Golding’s point was that liberation from social restraint would magnify existing learned and innate behaviours, ramping up the cruelty, hierarchy, powerplay, loyalty and decency of school life.

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At the end, a British pilot arrives as a deus ex machina to spirit them back to civilization.

Until June 18.

Bridget Galton