Review: Lord of the Flies @ Birmingham Hippodrome

It had to happen. After reinventing the great trio of Tchaikovsky Ballets and sundry non-balletic classics including Wilde’s Dorian Gray and Edward Scissorhands, Matthew Bourne has now turned his sights on Golding’s post-apocalyptic vision of a society gone feral. The result is strong meat and a very long way indeed from Swan Lake.

Choreographed by Scott Ambler (Swan Lake’s original Prince) and Mr. Bourne himself, the endlessly inventive action recreates the famous tale of what happens when a group of boys bound for boarding school are cast away on an uninhabited island and left to fend for themselves.

To a poundingly atmospheric techno score the action moves from children’s games to scary, shamanistic rituals as the abandoned boys reinvent society according to the primitive doctrine of survival of the fittest, where might is right. As hierarchies emerge among the boys, power struggles lead to proto wars in Golding’s dystopian vision.

But the most amazing thing is the cast of young professional dancers plus boys drawn from all over the midlands specially chosen to create their roles for the final work. It’s not really so long ago that ballet only meant girls in tutus. This show demonstrates clearly how far-reaching Matthew Bourne’s work has been in changing perceptions, placing men’s athleticism at the very epicentre of dance. Certainly this packed to the rafters audience showed no surprise at the vibrant physicality and macho potency of the all-boy cast.

As children’s games turn to ritualised aggression the endless invention never lets up. You probably know the book, but if not I won’t spoil the ending. In any case the journey’s the thing, showing just how far Bourne’s vision continues to change the face of British dance.