Truly fantastic productions of Lord of the Flies

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Harrogate Grammar School’s Faculty of Performing Arts proudly presented ‘Lord of the Flies’ on 23rd and 24th June 2014. A disturbing tale about a stranded group of children stuck on an uninhabited island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results was tackled by two separate casts. The drama staff decided they couldn’t choose between a male or a female cast, and knowing the production would not work with a mixed gender cast, they rehearsed for two separate versions of the play. Mrs Poyser worked with the male cast, drawing out the humour initially then tipping the characters into physical anger whereas Miss Nicholls enables the audience to see the darker attributes of the female characters as the plot developed.
Over the two performances, audiences experienced a fascinating and thrilling insight to the difference in behaviour, relationships and social interaction by the different gender casts, offering audiences a unique and exciting opportunity to encounter what happens when our basic natural instincts are pushed to the limit. Using the same staging, set, lighting and sound, the differences really did enable the audience to engage with how gender reactions differ in the same situation.

Rehearsing for just 8 weeks, the casts from Years 8 – 12 began the process by collaborating with A Level Psychology students. Character development and the understanding of the plot were completed through thorough research and study progressing character work through practical workshops. Throughout the rehearsal process both casts worked separately and independently from one another, each developing their own psychological foundation and direction, resulting in two very different, exciting and poignant performances. The cast, crew and directors are to be congratulated on making a fantastic idea a very real success.

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Review of Lord of the Flies written by Tom Sheriff (year 12 student)

When it was announced earlier in the year that the HGS school production was to be an adaptation of the William Golding novel Lord of the Flies, there was no lack of controversy. The acclaimed novel tells the story of a group of schoolboys stranded on a mysterious island after a plane crash – how could the play be inclusive whilst remaining faithful to its exclusively male source? The drama team’s daring decision to split the performances into one all-female and one all-male cast was unheard of, and received more than a few doubters, of which I was one.

How else could the team respond but by producing two performances of undisputed brilliance? On the evenings of the 23rd and 24th of June, drama, art and music came together to shock and delight audiences with two surprisingly different yet equally excellent shows. Lord of the Flies was a complete triumph.

On entering the Forum, the audience sees the impressive jungle set, with countless leaves made by year eight art providing the natural mood interrupted only by a broken plane and a chilling model of a dead pilot (courtesy of GCSE art students) hanging ominously from the trees. When the room darkens, the strobing starts and the screeching yell of an alarm signify the crashing of a plane and the start of the story. The intense opening puts the whole audience instantly on the edge of their seats; much like Alfred Hitchcock did in the opening credits of Psycho, the tension is ramped up even before the show starts, setting the dark mood for the rest of the evening.

While the openings of the two plays may be the same, the similarities end here. As the lights brighten to reveal a warm morning, Piggy stumbles forward. Played by Maya Edwards and Sam Hartshorn respectively, both find a different angle to play the physically weak and bullied character, with the female Piggy focusing on her conflicted nature and the male Piggy portraying the desperate hopelessness of his situation. Piggy is soon met by Ralphie/Ralph (Hannah Margerison/Harry Pritchard), who’s basic kindness is an obvious feature of both performances.

Once the scene is set, Jackie/Jack and the other children arrive. Kiera Brodie’s Jackie is snide, jealous and hateful, whereas Callum Brown’s Jack starts as comically sarcastic and witty to an extent, showing only glimpses of physical intimidation. Both versions of the character are equally unpleasant and as the play becomes progressively darker, the actors respond, turning what once seemed amusing into a horrifying show of cruelty. Jackie, despite being physically shorter than Ralphie, seems to tower over her, with hints of Napoleon syndrome. This differs wildly from the boys, where Jack suffers more from a superiority complex compounded by his height; it is his god-given right to rule these children. After all, he is choir prefect.

Such physicality is a stand-out trait of the male cast. As the boys descend into chaos, their bare chests and tribal chanting make watching the show an intense, visceral experience. The female performance was more psychologically oriented, with Jackie’s manipulation being more verbal than Jack’s towering intimidation. Both supporting casts, however, are uniformly excellent in their wonder, fear, innocence and corruption. The younger characters are often the cause of some comic relief early on, but the audience’s laughter is transformed into pity as the older group turn malicious. Simon/Simone (Dan David/Sophie Camfield) provide surprisingly complex studies of confusion and adolescent uncertainty, whilst Roger/Ruby (James Forth/Amy Cartledge) epitomise the youthful desire to fit in. The psychological studies that went into the production are obvious; the depths to the characters’ evolution and endlessly intriguing.

As an experience, both shows were harrowing, and could have proved too much for some. The spiral into chaos and violence is a depressingly natural one to watch unfold. In very different ways, both performances absolutely succeeded in delighting and shocking their audiences (and possibly resulting in a few sleepless nights), with no end of support from music, art, and technicians. With Lord of the Flies, HGS has once again raised the bar for school productions.

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