William Golding’s classic Lord of the Flies was brought to life on the Manoel Theatre stage by the young performers in the Teatru Manoel Youth Theatre troop. Directed by Ian Moore and featuring a crop of fresh faces, the play explores the breakdown of society and civility in a group of stranded schoolchildren. 

Those familiar with Golding’s novel will remember that the crew of kids stranded on the nameless island is originally made up entirely of boys. In an excellent move by TMYT, this staged version of the story makes a few quick name changes and includes a healthy number of girls within the play, including many of the lead roles. Ultimately, this makes absolutely no difference to the story as it unfolds and allows young performers of either gender to shine based on their hard work and talents. An excellent initiative!

Since its inception some years ago, TMYT has offered a springboard for the island’s young performers, offering theatre goers a peek at some of the up-and-comers on the local scene. Boasting a strong cast of actors and a few singers, I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’ll see some of these faces on the Manoel stage. 

Leading the young cast (and the saner side of the island) as Ralph, Kyle Borg offers a thoughtful performance as a young man struggling with the pressures of leadership. Meanwhile, Eliza Aquilina in the role of Jacqueline (Jack, to book fans) did a thoroughly convincing impression of every girl who didn’t like me at school. Her strength on stage made her rise to power and the island’s descent into madness all the more plausible. A stand-out performance of the night came from Clara Agius as Simone, who manages to lend her character an almost otherworldly dreaminess that contrasts all the more with the chaos and turmoil around her.

While it offered plenty to enjoy in the more intimate scenes, Lord of the Flies hit its stumbling blocks on the larger scenes

Being that the production was so eager to make little tweaks to the script to fit its available cast, I do find it strange that the references to Piggy’s weight were kept in the dialogue. Piggy gives the other kids on the island a fair few reasons to be annoyed, both through Sarah Amato’s capably awkward performance, and the script’s own characterisation. With that in mind, hiding the perfectly healthy-looking Ms Amato in a too-large sweater and keeping all the “fatty” comments in the script just felt out of place.

While it offered plenty to enjoy in the more intimate scenes, Lord of the Flies hit its stumbling blocks on the larger scenes. Though director Ian Moore did a fine job in extracting key performances from individuals, the group scenes had the unfortunate habit of descending into anarchy. Fitting, perhaps, given the subject material, but not ideal for the energy of the show. It was in the more complex group scenes that the performance began to flag, losing energy and dropping its pacing as the scenes became messier. Similarly, the choral interludes of the play, while certainly haunting and well performed, seemed to go on a little longer than necessary, and sometimes slowed down the ongoing action.

The play boasts an impressive set designed by Romualdo Moretti which truly does highlight the massive strides that local production values have made over the last few years. However, while the scattered aeroplane wreckage was immediately striking upon first sight of the stage, I couldn’t help but feel that its various dynamic levels and areas did not wholly mesh with the blocking of the piece. The back wing, for example, used several times throughout the play, did not allow the performers enough space to manoeuvre, slowing its scenes down significantly and creating a few awkward onstage dynamics. This was not helped by the lighting design, which was often flat enough that the rapidly intercut scenes towards the climax of the play became difficult to follow. 

Though I look forward to seeing the TMYT’s new line up in many performances to come, I can’t help but feel that Lord of the Flies could have been slicker and tighter from a production standpoint. The story is a modern classic, the cast turn in good performances, and the set looks every inch a professional production, but somehow the parts failed to come together by the final scenes of the play. A little more attention to detail in terms of staging and choreographing the island’s descent into chaos may have kept the audience from feeling a little bit stranded themselves.

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