Regent’s Park Theatre Company are in the middle of a sell-out run of their production of Lord of the Flies at the Playhouse Theatre this week. On Thursday 4th February, LJMU English’s Alice Ferrebe gave a pre-show talk about William Golding’s novel and its context.
- The adaptation is set in the present-day. Did Golding’s novel translate across 60 years? Why is it still such a favourite school set-text?
Alice: One of the things I tried to bring out in my talk was the way the novel, first published in 1954, responds to crucial anxieties in its post-war context, in particular issues around human morality in the wake of the Death Camps and the atomic bomb. Those ideas, are of course, perennial ones, and the narrative still retains its moral charge today. There’s a lovely irony in the fact that Golding wrote the novel whilst himself a schoolteacher, often setting his class thankless tasks like counting the number of words on the page of a novel so that he could get published and escape into a new career as a novelist. From that publication on, he was bedevilled by correspondence from schoolchildren: ‘Dear Mr Golding, I’m writing an essay on Lord of the Flies, and I wondered if you could tell me…’
- Golding’s boys talk like … well, what they (mostly) are: 1950s public schoolboys. How did that work on stage?
Alice: I have to confess, I had concerns about that before seeing the show. Nigel Williams did amazing things with the script, I think, as did the actors. They managed to keep up the class divide signalled by speech, which is such an important part of the novel (and of Piggy’s persecution), without sounding stiltedly old-fashioned. Two of the choir burst onto the stage with its mangled aircraft fuselage yelling the words of Miley Cyrus’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ – a great moment.
- So is this story really about ‘the Beast within’?
It is, of course it is. But in my talk I tried to get the audience to think about that Beast may not an innate human evil, but one fostered and perpetuated by a particular system of education and governance. When the author Ian McEwan read Golding’s novel he recognised right away that the island was ‘a thinly disguised boarding school’. For many generations, boys in these institutions were brought up to believe that compassion and emotion – traditionally feminine qualities – were antithetical to becoming a man, and should be mocked and pilloried at every encounter. And these were the men who grew up to run the country and drive the Empire. The story is always read as an allegory of human experience. I was suggesting that it might be considerably more class- and gender-specific than that.
LJMU English’s Bella Adams will be giving pre-show talk on the upcoming production of A Raisin in the Sun at the Playhouse in March. Watch this site for more details.
Remember that if you’re an LJMU English student, you can get amazing discounts on tickets with our cultural partners the Everyman Playhouse.