IDFB 2014: The Lord of the Flies by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures

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Upon first learning that Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies was coming to the Birmingham Hippodrome as part of the International Dance Festival 2014, it was almost impossible to imagine what a ballet interpretation of William Golding’s iconic, dystopian novel might look like. In theory, the two seem rather an odd combination, yet in practice, together they work amazingly well.

Less a traditional ballet than a kind of silent play with dancing, this New Adventures’ adaptation manages to get right to the heart of Golding’s story. At times, the dancers are menacing, unleashing the darkness of human nature in cleverly choreographed fights, hunts and tribal rituals. On the other hand, the more playful movements and sequences serve as a continual reminder of the innocence and vulnerability of the characters: as terribly as they behave, the show refuses to let us forget that its subjects are ultimately only children, left to fend for themselves with no adult support or guidance. As Golding’s daughter, Judy writes in the programme,

“children are entitled to the protection of adults – protection not only from a hostile world, but also from their own natures. It isn’t fair that Ralph and Jack and Piggy and Simon have to do without adults.”

Lord of the Flies

Perhaps the production’s most disturbing aspect is its strong militaristic undercurrent, present right from the very beginning with a long, disciplined march that takes place before the boys become stranded. This theme emerges again in the form of the khaki-clad ghost seen by Simon, and at the end of the show, when the children are finally rescued: looking like a modern British soldier, their disturbed saviour could easily have walked right out of a conflict in the Middle East. This reflects ideas explored in the original novel, which set during a wartime evacuation, and was partly inspired by Golding’s own first-hand experience of brutality in war.

Danny Reubens is fantastically sinister as Jack, managing to induce fear, yet also to arouse pity, in viewers: he is instinctively aggressive, but also immature and desperate for the admiration of the other boys. Jack and his thuggish friend Roger (Dan Wright)  are brilliantly off-set by Dominic North as the good-natured Ralph, along with his hapless friends Piggy and Simon, played by Sam Plant and Layton Williams. But it wasn’t just the New Adventures dancers who were impressive: the young, local cast were amazing, quickly proving themselves more than capable of keeping up with the professionals.

Lord of the Flies

Throughout the show, the performers managed to strike a great balance between complex dancing and physical storytelling, portraying the characters and their journey with perfect clarity. As someone who has never read the original novel, I had no trouble understanding the plot. This is, perhaps, dance at its most accessible, for both audiences and performers alike.

Click here for more information about the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014, which continues until the end of next week.

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Coming Up at the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014

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With the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014 now over a week underway, there are still plenty more exciting shows to look forward to before the month is through.

After their eagerly anticipated openings last night, both Sylvie Guillem’s 6000 Miles Away and the Aakash Odedra Company’s double bill Murmur & Inked will be returning this evening to the Birmingham Hippodrome, on the main stage and in the Patrick Centre, respectively. Widely hailed as one of the world’s greatest dancers, in 6000 Miles Away, Sylvie Guillem performs William Forsythe’s Rearray and Mats Ek’s Bye, set to Beethoven’s last sonata. Meanwhile, in Murmur and Inked, Aakash Odedra collaborates with choreographer Lewis Major, the Ars Electronica Futurelab and Oliver Award-winner Damien Jalet, to explore themes of dyslexia and the transformation of the body through scarring and tattoos.

Bye, solo choreographed by Mats Ek for Sylvie Guillem 2010

From Thursday through to the weekend, you’ll be able to catch some awe-inspiring acrobatics from groundbreaking Montreal circus company Les 7 Doigts de la Main in Séquence 8 at the Birmingham REP, as well as some impressive work from Birmingham City University’s School of Architecture, which will be displayed in a Millennium Point open exhibition titled All of Birmingham is a Stage.

OOn Friday and Saturday, Company Decalage will present a world premiere double bill of Match & Half Way to the Other Side in the Hippodrome’s Patrick Centre, while outside, Corey Baker Dance will be giving passers-by the chance to experience some traditional Maori Haka dancing in Centenary Square.

Lord of the Flies

Next week’s festivities will kick off on Tuesday with Border Tales from Luca Silvestrini’s Protein, a witty, satirical show blending dance, dialogue and live music, and taking place in the Patrick Centre. From Wednesday, the Hippodrome’s main stage will be taken over by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures for a chilling yet beautiful dance adaptation of William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. Finally on Saturday, those a little more strapped for cash can enjoy an array of free, outdoor dance performances at Put Your Foot Down in Spiceall Street, near the Bullring.

There’ll also be lots to see and do during the last week of the festival (more on this soon), including DJs, dancers, workshops and demonstrations and Sadler’s Wells’s Breakin’ Convention, and an exploration of Argentinian tango in Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s M¡longa, both in the Hippodrome theatre.

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For more information on all upcoming shows and to book tickets, visit the IDFB website.