DANCE REVIEW: Lord Of The Flies, Sadler’s Wells (UK Tour)

touring until 6 December 2014

Sadler's Wells photo
Sadler’s Wells

New Adventures dance company, together with Re:Bourne, stopped off at Sadler’s Wells this week for the London leg of their revolutionary tour: their dance adaptation of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, performed by a mixture of professional performers from the company and boys aged 10-23 with differing levels of dance experience – some with none at all.

In Scott Ambler and Matthew Bourne’s take on the story, the action moves from a desert island to an abandoned theatre; the boys raid the confectionery stand for food, Piggy and Ralph hide amongst the costume racks for refuge, and the symbolic conch becomes a timpani stick. This does make the plot a little harder to follow if you’re not familiar with it, as the creative team have gone for broad brush strokes rather than detailed specifics. Subsequently much of the symbolism and nuance of Golding’s writing is lost, and the elements of the plot feel rather fragmented, but the piece is rendered with a boldness and spirit that is impressive.

The combination of professional and amateur dancers – including some first time performers – means there is a great fusion of freshness with the power and emotional depth that experience and maturity bring. This enhances Bourne’s recognisable blend of lightness with power, of fun with urgency, and of humour and popular appeal with a respect for the classics. The show opens with a section of Ambler’s choreography that is lively and rhythmic, as the boys march in time before all order breaks down. Yet if there is any criticism of the choreography as the show continues, it is that it isn’t really that ‘dance-y’ (technical term, that one): while it’s certainly atmospheric, the show is actually pretty light on content.

New Adventures' Lord of the Flies
New Adventures’ Lord of the Flies

Of course, some of the boys have not had a huge amount of training, yet their confidence and movement suggests they would be capable of a bit more technical work, particularly those who do have more experience. At the moment it is really half-dance, half-physical theatre – no bad thing in itself, but not quite what you’d expect from this team. Having said that, there is lovely fluid movement from the professionals playing Simon (Layton Williams, making his début with the company) and Ralph (Sam Archer), while Sam Plant’s Piggy creates the most rounded character and Danny Reubens’s Jack is a snarling and forceful antagonist.

While the work is let down by a rather uninspiring score, the ensemble work is effective and, putting aside the fact that the jungle-themed aspects don’t exactly fit the new setting, the tribal elements are performed well. While the attack on Simon could be drawn out a little more to maintain dramatic tension, it is great to see this group of dancers working tightly together. In the end, while there are some faults in the show, it is a bold and passionate piece of theatre that entertains, has great energy, always feels professional and – most importantly – is an incredible experience for the young dancers involved. It is fantastic to see a cast made up of young male dancers and the work of this tour in nurturing new talent is undeniable – not perfect, but certainly pioneering.

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