Monday, October 20, 2014

Savage Dance: Lord Of The Flies

There is nothing better than having your expectations turned upside-down, when the show you are expecting to see is nothing like what you witness.  That was the case at Sadler's Wells last week and seeing Matthew Bourne and Scott Ambler's thrilling dance adaptation of LORD OF THE FLIES.

It certainly helped having a knowledge of William Goulding's chilling novel of a party of adolescents going feral when the plane they are travelling in crashes into a deserted, tropical island.  Of course this only skims the surface events of Goulding's book but as an imagined piece of dance theatre it worked marvellously.

I did have an idea of what I would see as I have seen practically all Matthew Bourne's work but I was proved wrong.  Bourne's last 'straight' dance piece DORIAN GRAY was a rather obvious attempt to be seen to be handling 'adult themes' and eventually felt shallow but here, due to the immersive soundscape by Paul Groothus, one was drawn into the sensory world of the boy's experience with ease.

What has been remarkable about this tour is that the ensemble of young male dancers has been recruited through local schools and dance workshops so is individual to each city played.  All I can say about the London core ensemble of 22 young lads - most of whom have never danced professionally before - was that they were exceptionally good and suggested the pack mentality of the lost boys with savage precision.

I think the biggest joy of the evening was Scott Ambler's choreography which was stripped-down to the barest essentials and was thrilling to watch.  As much as I love Bourne's work he can verge into the cutesy which was my fear going in but Ambler kept the dance taut and lean.

The lead dancers all did great work in suggesting the internal worlds of the characters.  I like Sam Archer's Ralph, the de facto leader of the group whose attempts to maintain an adherence to fair play and order crumbles when faced with the rising star of Danny Ruebens' Jack.  It is Jack who leads the expeditions to find food and eventually he overthrows Ralph and his few followers to become the feared leader of the now-savage boys.

Layton Williams was haunting as Simon, the sensitive boy who is consumed by the horrors of the island while Sam Plant was particularly good as 'Piggy' who clings to Ralph's protection from the bullying of the others.  I also liked the work of Philip King and Luke Murphy as the twins Eric and Sam whose duets started out playfully but turned darker as events changed.  I also liked Dan Wright's Roger, the nasty bully who is Jack's all-too-willing strong-arm man.

The show's success was also due to several Bourne regulars' excellent production: Lez Brotherston's design was spare by necessity as it's a touring show but it's standing set of packing crates, oil cans and scaffolding made that into a very workable and effective virtue.  Terry Davies' pulsing score was wonderfully involving and Chris Davey's lighting conjured up a world of brilliant sunshine and blackest night.

It is a production that has continued to live on in the memory since seeing it and like most of Bourne's best work it would be great to experience it again.  


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