Theme park of darkness

Lord Of The Flies is based on the 1954 book of the same name by William Golding.
Lord Of The Flies is based on the 1954 book of the same name by William Golding.PHOTO: WALLACE WOON, SIGHT LINES PRODUCTIONS

REVIEW / THEATRE

LORD OF THE FLIES

Sight Lines Productions in collaboration with Blank Space Theatre

Sota Studio Theatre/ Last Saturday

This Lord Of The Flies is part theatre, part theme park.

Bushes and creepers tangle above viewers' heads and turn the School of the Arts' Studio Theatre into verdant jungle. In the opening dark, seats vibrate with the sound of sputtering airplane engines. A bang rings out before the sounds of surf and an island paradise wash over the audience.

  • BOOK IT / LORD OF THE FLIES

  • WHERE: 1 Zubir Said Drive, School of the Arts, Sota Studio Theatre

    WHEN: Friday, 7.30pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 2.30 and 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $68 from lordoftheflies.peatix.com

Encircling the seats are the footsteps and hopeful voices of the lost boys, whose fall into savagery will occupy the next two hours.

Thanks to sets by Wong Chee Wai, special effects by lighting designer James Tan and sound designer-composer Jing Ng and their crew, the old-school seated theatre in Lord Of The Flies becomes an immersive experience, comparable with other recent experiments in the genre.

Old-school is the theme of this play, directed by Samantha Scott-Blackhall. The script by Nigel Williams is based on the 1954 book of the same name by William Golding, which was a plea for putting the rule of law above the rule of strength.

The sole survivors of a plane crash on a deserted island, the lost boys move from playground roughhousing to downright brutality in the absence of any adult to enforce the law. Their slide is a metaphor for the war-mongering times Golding lived through.

The lost boys include Ralph, the elected leader and hero (Ghafir Akbar, with the same adolescent energy he brought to his role of younger brother in Checkpoint Theatre's The Good, The Bad And The Sholay); rival leader Jack (Mark Richmond, convincingly sullen) and the group weakling Piggy (Lim Kay Siu, who grows younger as the stage lights grow dimmer), who is targeted by Roger the sadist (a marvellously menacing Rizman Putra).

The group's conscience is Simon, whose seizures and death is frighteningly well-played by Erwin Shah Ismail. Much-needed comic relief comes from Lian Sutton and Gavin Yap as brothers Sam and Eric, Crispian Chan as Perceval, the clueless youngest, and from Bright Ong and Yazid Jalil as schoolboys who realise too late that following the leader brought them into moral quicksand.

In 1954, the shock value of Lord Of The Flies came from the audience's belief in public-school rules of fair play, order and decency. Today, however, audiences are inured to stories of teenagers killing each other for no good reason. Consider Japanese movie Battle Royale (2000) or The Hunger Games franchise (2008 to 2010) or even news headlines around the world. Ralph and Piggy's insistence on fair play seems sadly naive, even if it is an attitude more should subscribe to.

For all their brutal deeds, these are still innocent schoolboys on stage. Missing from their interaction is any sexual subtext or even humour of the kind usually heard in conversation between groups of 12- to 14-year-olds today. This even though the setting and props are ripe with opportunities for coarse jokes. Roger obliges a couple of times, but is remarkably restrained - possibly because this old-school play is targeting today's schoolgoing audience.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2016, with the headline 'Theme park of darkness'. Print Edition | Subscribe