Sell A Door 2012 Lord of the Flies UK Tour
Interview with Ben Wiggins and Daniel Ash
Sell A Door Theatre Company are currently touring England with their production of Lord of the Flies which has received excellent reviews. Ben Wiggins (Ralph), and Daniel Ash (Percival) kindly answered our questions about the play.
How does it feel to be working on an adaptation of such a well-known novel? Is it more challenging than working with an original script?
Ben: It feels great! There is obviously a lot of pressure to do the story justice because it has made such a massive contribution to English literature and holds quite a special place for many people. The only slight difference there is when working with such a well-known piece as opposed to an original script is that people hold certain expectations about and attitudes towards the characters. This means that my interpretation of Ralph may conflict with how someone else had perceived him when they read the book. Unfortunately, there isn’t much anyone can do about that!
Daniel: Such an iconic and well known novel. It sells itself. People oooh and ahhh when I tell them what play I’m in and want to come and see it! It’s just as exciting being in it. The stage adaption rushes through the action so quickly; the audience won’t be bored. It’s a challenge conveying everything in the book in just a few lines on stage, pace and time pass so quickly from page to page in the script. An exciting piece to be working on.
Lord of the Flies was published in 1954. Do you think the book still has relevance today?
Ben: Certainly! Apart from the fact that a war is mentioned in the novel, there is very little else that places the action into any specific time frame which means that one has the ability to transport it to any era. The story isn’t really about when or where the action takes place: it focusses on the collapse of humanity and morality. Also, the fact that the story centres on a group of young boys who are still mainly in the bosom of innocence means that there is a timelessness about the tale. I think if a group of young boys today were stranded on a desert island with no adults and only their ‘morals’, the consequences may will be similar! The primal instincts that become evident within the boys are, I believe, in all of us and without the protective structure of society and authority this savagery could well manifest itself.
Daniel: Definitely. The climax of the play is based around group/mob mentality; getting caught up in the excitement/horror of a situation. You only have to look at the riots last summer for a striking parallel. And I suppose the book says whoever you are, rich, poor, well bought up or not, that aggression and animalism is in everyone.
How the play is being staged? Is it challenging to create a deserted island in a theatre?
Ben: The staging of the play may be somewhat different to other productions. Sell A Door liked the concept of having the whole island story as a flashback. The stage is set up like a school gymnasium with punch bags, boxing bags, ropes and large treads. During the opening scene, a gym class is in progress until one incident (a boy being pushed over and having his glasses taken) breaks the routine and the boys begin to get out of hand. The teacher (an older Ralph) loses control of the boys and chaos ensues. During the disorder, the stage is transformed into a beach with sand and the play actually begins (it is quite difficult to fully explain without seeing the performance!) In the closing scene we return to the gymnasium with the teacher in a complete state about having these violent memories return to him.
Daniel: Sell a Door’s adaptation has a very clever set design and well thought out concept. The play starts in a gymnasium at a school and a moment of havoc spirals out of control until the kids have turned the gymnasium into the island, using the punch bags, ropes, treads etc.
The staging is very adventurous. Such a physical adaptation. From rehearsal one, warm ups involved press ups, sits up, jumping, running, a proper work out; very testosterone fuelled and high energy. Great choreographed physical routines and set changes too.
Were the cast and crew familiar with the novel before getting involved in the production?
Ben: I had studied it at school so was familiar with the story but decided to reread the book at least twice before rehearsals started in order to get a real sense of who my character was and what William Golding was trying to say. I also watched both of the films, not so much to see how the boys played Ralph but to watch/remember how children that age interact with one another. However, the Nigel Williams stage adaptation does differ somewhat from the novel and I think that it is important to treat them as separate works and I believe that some members of the cast actually deliberately didn’t reread the book so that they could make fresh choices with their characters.
Daniel: I read the novel pre audition but of course was familiar with the story. I was surprised at how brutal the story actually is.
Recent productions have placed the play in a more modern setting i.e. characters having iPods, Ben 10 bags etc. Is this something you have done or considered?
Ben: I’m not sure whether the production team considered this but we have kept the props/staging quite minimalistic and plain. It’s certainly not set in today’s Playstation/Xbox/wifi world! I feel that the story is accessible and relevant enough to all ages without the inclusion of modern technology or reference to current trends.
Is it difficult to inhabit the roles of such iconic characters?
Ben: Yes and no. I think all the actors in the cast know they have a big responsibility to ensure that they keep the essence of the characters the way in which William Golding intended but as with any text, the characters are very open to analysis and interpretation. It is very likely that two people can read the book/play and have a completely different idea about how a particular character behaves/walks/speaks/interacts with others etc.
Daniel: All the other boys play 10/11 year olds, whereas Percival is 6/7 so personally playing so young has been a real challenge. In rehearsal we did a lot of improvisations, games, playing to take us back to that boyish childhood. It’s been a lot of fun discovering our young inner selves again.
The play contains many elements of threat and violence. Is it difficult (and exhausting!) to portray this on stage?
Ben: As a whole, the performance is very tiring both physically, owing to our very energetic concept and the nature of the play, and mentally because all the characters embark on huge emotional journeys. We have included several choreographed fight sequences, routines, tribal dances, transition pieces etc. which means the space is always animated. Whilst we are all aware of our own and each other’s safety, the movement pieces along with the text allow us all to ‘lose ourselves’ in the moment as much as possible. I think more than anything being able to lose control is a fun and exciting aspect of the play!
Daniel: Well thought out choreography, constant rehearsal and working strongly as a cast has meant we tackled this in our stride. A good warm up is essential to avoid injury. Making these elements as real as possible I’d say is essential to the whole concept of the play.