Lady of the flies
An all-female cast flips the script of classic story
Originally published in 1954, William Golding’s famous novel Lord of the Flies is, among other things, a dark fable about human nature. The allegory about the breakdown of society plays out among warring factions that form when a plane carrying English schoolboys crashes, stranding the kids on a remote tropical island.
For its adaptation of the Nigel Williams stage version of the novel, co-directors Erika Soerensen and Martin Chavira have made the bold move of flipping the script by switching out boys for girls and using an all-female cast, raising the question in the minds of theater-goers of how a different gender might result in a different outcome.
Golding himself, in a recorded introduction to his novel (viewable on YouTube), stated that, “I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men, they are far superior and always have been. But one thing you can’t do with them is take a bunch of them and boil them down, so to speak, into a set of little girls who would then become a kind of image of civilization, of society.” But, despite Golding’s perhaps sentimental misgivings, and thanks to excellent performances by the actors, Soerensen and Chavira’s vision of human frailty and fallibility—set against Amber Miller’s gorgeously painted, dark and lush jungle backdrop—does prove universal.
We first meet Rose (Sam Lucas) and Piggy (Rosemary Richardson) scrambling around on the beach after the plane crash. Rose, like her male counterpart Ralph in the novel, is the model of reasonableness and decorum, her school uniform immaculate, hair brushed, and shoes polished. Piggy, as in the novel, is the embodiment of the goodness of the common man (or, in this case, girl), slightly disheveled, full of emotion and sentiment, but pragmatic and reasonable regarding the necessity of working together to achieve social harmony.
Joining the initial duo comes choir leader Jane (Mia Corrina), with her cadre of singers who make up the rest of the cast. Like her parallel character, Jack, Jane is a domineering but charismatic leader, who, freed from the constraints of adult supervision, is determined to shape her crew with violent retribution for anyone who contradicts her desires.
Initially, Rose’s very reasonable arguments for order and cooperation win her the title of “Chief,” but Jane counters that authority by creating her own faction of hunters whom she controls. Among her followers are the well-meaning but easily manipulated twins, Sam (Lila Chavira) and Erika (Lola Parks), and the visionary schizo-mystic Sara (Morgan Allen), whose hallucination/vision in the forest upon encountering the fly-covered head of a slaughtered pig leads to the story’s title.
Those familiar with the novel will have no problem matching the parallel characters on stage, and the action touches most of the novel’s crucial scenes, from the butchering of a pig and subsequent bonfire and primeval feast, to the much more dark and blood-soaked trials born of the escalating conflict.
I went in thinking and still believe, apparently like Golding himself, that populating the island with girls in real life would flip not just the gender and actions of the characters but also the outcome of their dilemma. But to those who might so quickly dismiss the female capacity for both good and evil, Chavira responded, “These people must never have heard of Margaret Thatcher [or] Sarah Palin … nor watched Mean Girls.” And this well-played production’s dark vision of humanity’s universal tendency toward self-destruction does provide some powerful food for thought and debate on the issue.