William Golding’s 1954 novel about a group of children evacuated via plane from London during war, then stranded on an island when the plane crashes, is standard reading for many schools and considered an important contribution to English literature. It was adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams in 1996. Kip Williams is directing a new production for Sydney Theatre Company and he has included some interesting variations.
The original story features an all caucasian group of pre to mid-teen boys with middle-class backgrounds. This STC production has an adult cast which includes an indigenous man, African man, a trans person, and females playing males. There will be surprises in the presentation too.
“It’s not exactly what you think it might be,” teases Justin Amankwah who plays Henry – “one of the not so good boys.” Amankwah is West African and missed out on reading the novel by the time he moved to Australia, so he had to catch up.
“I read the book and read the play and got a feel for it and thought: ‘whoa! this is heavy!’” he says.
In terms of the diverse casting, Amankwah believes “it makes it more broad. It makes it more relatable for more people.” And he’s not thrown by female actors playing male roles either.
What was more challenging was navigating the emotional, social, and psychological issues that the play stirs up. His character, Henry, is among the gang of boys that performs a particularly savage act. Amankwah is a self-confessed wuss and believes he would never do what these boys do, and yet, he is slowly gaining an understanding of what motivates Henry.
“It’s really unsettling. There’s an immense guilt and also kind of a, a need for someone to guide you. It’s a tale of toxic masculinity and peer pressure, so you know, [Henry] does do “the deed” but he’s kind of pressured into it,” says Amankwah.
Despite the story’s age, Amankwah says it has relevance today on many levels. It examines concepts around democracy, bullying, human nature, tribal thinking, basic needs. It’s not altogether gloomy, though.
“It’s gonna be quite entertaining, I think,” says Amankwah. “I’m so excited about it! It’s gonna be great!”
Until Aug 24. Roslyn Packer Theatre, 22 Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay. $39-$120+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.roslynpackertheatre.com.au
By Rita Bratovich