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Lord of the Flies: Oxford Castle Mound
William Golding’s morality tale Lord of the Flies is brought to the stage by new Oxford-based theatre company Eat My Box. The novel’s canonical status makes it a brave choice of first production, and the group have an even braver choice of locale: a glorified cupboard under the bottom of a café in Oxford’s castle complex and, weather permitting, the castle’s mound.
Inside owing to wet weather, I found that the small indoor location does create an uncomfortable intimacy. Here, a motley group of boys wake up on a desert island to find themselves without adults. A protracted power struggle ensues between two of them, the boisterous Jack (Scott Newman) and the more pragmatic Ralph (Sam Cole). The rest take sides and what results is more than the odd emotional casualty.
With the young cast bringing the text’s violence almost into the laps of their audience, this is a confrontational piece. And, for the first half at least, it kind of works. The actors are all remarkably unselfconscious for such a venue and, on the whole, and despite some of their varying ages, are convincing. The limited space is used well by director Charlie Parker. The adaptation of the source is economical but solid and each of the principal characters is well differentiated — which may sound like faint praise, but it is so easy for one savage adolescent to come across as indistinguishable from another.
As things get nastier in the show’s second half, however, things do get increasingly shouty and incoherent. As the violence escalates, and the two groups of boys increasingly diverge from each other, the show loses focus.
This Lord of the Flies is performed with conviction and intelligence, boding well for this fledgling theatre company. But ultimately it doesn’t deliver the requisite shock and awe demanded by the novel.