The Young Co, a division of the Singapore Repertory Theatre, made up of young thespians between the ages of 16 to 25, presents its graduation show, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, from 25th July to 28th July at the DBS Arts Centre – Home of SRT.
Directed by Daniel Jenkins and performed by past and present student actors from The Young Co, Lord of the Flies tells the tale of a bunch of male teenagers who find themselves stranded on an island, presumably after their plane crashes. The students initially celebrate being free from adults, until they realise they need rules and a leader to make sense of their island existence.
Ralph (Ethan Chia) and Jack (Bright Ong) tussle for leadership, which ends with a faction in the group. In time, Jack’s restless and raucous group of boys hunt and kill with abandon, while Ralph’s group of friends live in fear of Jack and his gang. Soon, Jack and his boys convince Ralph and his friends to kill animals and, in a fit of euphoria, one of the boys ends up getting killed instead. With the blood of one of their own on their hands now, the boys have to choose between being savages, or returning to their humanity.
Lord of the Flies is adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams, and although the theme of the original book carries well into the play, the dialogue at times seems repetitive, and the storyline seems too weak and narrow for a two hour stage play in modern times.
Having said that though, the young cast does indeed make the play rise above the page with their capable acting. Fresh from playing the lead in Toy Factory’s Equus, Ethan Chia is first billed for this play. Chia is a reasonably competent actor and portrays his Ralph as a nice homely teenager who’s later swept up by the hysterics of Jack’s group to partake in some questionable activities. Although, it will be nice if we can see Chia inject a little more colour and layers into his portrayal.
Instead, it is both Andrew Marko, who plays bespectacled plump boy Piggy and Bright Ong, who plays bad boy Jack, who steal the show and overshadow Chia. Marko and Ong both possess natural acting abilities that incorporate subtle layers into their performances, thereby giving nuance to their respective characters. From their varied delivery of dialogue to their range of expressions, both Marko and Ong have clearly showcased themselves as two actors who have plenty of innate talent. This reviewer foresees a bright future for these two thespians in the local acting scene.
Other cast who perform well are Sean Lai as Maurice, Gavin Low as Eric, Gurmit Singh as Bill (this is another Gurmit Singh, not the one from Phua Chu Kang fame) and Leroy Yap as Sam. These boys inhabit their characters to the maximum as they either play, hunt, dance, – or- cry, shiver and scream on stage, as supporters of Jack and Ralph respectively.
However, Bjorn Lee Varella who plays Simon, a major supporting character, is a tad too overly dramatic in certain places and his performance there could be toned down. Although, in the scene where Simon has a mental breakdown, Varella nails his portrayal perfectly, as he mixes confusion, tears and fear with the right amount of intensity.
Unfortunately, Rick Chan who plays Roger seems to have only one expression that does not change throughout the play, and Chan also has problems with his diction and enunciation, making it very hard to understand him at times. Soh Wee Pin who plays Perceval also has limited expressions, and his performance seems uninspiring and underwhelming most of the time he’s on stage.
The set by production designer Christopher Chua is simple but eye catching, as it features a burnt up plane, with the top part of it serving as mountains or other parts of the jungle on the island. Under the direction of Daniel Jenkins, the boys use the set fully to demonstrate different parts of their environment.
Jenkins also infuses the boys’ performances with high energy when it is needed, fear and loathing when necessary, and pathos and humanity when possible, thereby lifting Nigel William’s rather draggy script to a higher level. In the hands of a less able director, the play would be boring and uninteresting, but Jenkins succeeds in making this play lively by drawing out the best possible performances from the boys and making use of the stage in a dynamic fashion.
All in all, Lord of the Flies is indeed proof that there are some young actors coming up the ranks who will eventually give the more established local thespians a run for their money. Because theatre is, after all, a savage world, isn’t it?
Photo Credit: Singapore Repertory Theatre