This year marks the centenary of the birth of the great English novelist and Nobel laureate William Golding. One suspects he would rather have liked the fact that the event has been commemorated with the world premiere of this dance interpretation of his most famous novel, Lord of the Flies.
Combining eight dancers who have come through the ranks of Re:Bourne (the education arm of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company) and 15 boys from west of Scotland secondary schools, the piece is a flagship of Bourne’s admirable project to get more boys involved in dance. It is easy to be sceptical of such work, as it seems to sit within a politically determined “social inclusion” agenda. However, the genius of this piece is that it trades successfully on Bourne’s fame, drawing in a far larger audience than it would otherwise have.
The work itself relocates Golding’s dystopian novel from a deserted island to an abandoned theatre, in which the boys have to fend for themselves. After the initial shock of their imprisonment, and the inevitable divvying up of school lunch packs, the youngsters set about establishing their own, ill-fated society in Lez Brotherston’s dark and brooding set.
The resulting performances require, as the novel allows, the highest levels of energy. Indeed, the dance purist might contend that there is very little choreography involved and a great deal of running and jumping around. It might be fairer, however, to compare the effect of these 23 dancers to dropping a piece of mercury on to the stage. A kind of organised chaos it may be, but there is something undeniably exhilarating about it.
A piece such as this is a positive magnet for clichés about the “raw energy” and “testosterone-driven” performances of the young men. However, Bourne and co-director Scott Ambler (who also choreographed the show) should be commended for forming these two distinct groups of dancers – who have received radically different levels of training – into a coherent whole.
The piece has its flaws, however. Although it succeeds in visualising the boys’ degeneration from uniformed school kids into something almost bestial, Ambler’s choreography goes round in circles, rather than developing with Golding’s narrative. Terry Davies’s music – which is often unpleasantly thin – is similarly repetitive.
If Bourne is to repeat this project elsewhere, there is still some work to be done on the creative side.
This review was originally published in the Daily Telegraph on March 8 2011
© Mark Brown