Magazine article The Spectator

Dance: Matthew Bourne's Lord of the Flies; the Crucible/Ten Poems; the Five & the Prophecy of Prana

Magazine article The Spectator

Dance: Matthew Bourne's Lord of the Flies; the Crucible/Ten Poems; the Five & the Prophecy of Prana

Article excerpt

Matthew Bourne's Lord of the Flies

touring until 6 December

The Crucible/Ten Poems

Scottish Ballet

The Five & the Prophecy of Prana

Boy Blue Entertainment, touring until15 November

GCSE Eng Lit pupils are doing well from dance this season with two set books told in the medium of dance, Arthur Miller's The Crucible and William Golding's Lord of the Flies , and even Dylan Thomas gets a look in. As the two stories have similar dynamics and dramatic themes, it was fascinating to see both in a single week and witness how mightily one succeeded and the other did not.

Matthew Bourne is so famed as a rewriter of classical ballets that one might underestimate the boldness of imagination that underlies them. He showed his full daring in his stylish and sinisterly amusing riff on amoral Sixties London, Play Without Words , a few years back, and now again in Lord of the Flies we see a production more sobering and menacing than his family shows (such as Edward Scissorhands , taking the Christmas slot at Sadler's Wells this year). Lord of the Flies is now winging its way through the country, where you should try to get to it, to see the mute force of the physical as a motivator of human decision-making.

It reminds you that what was so mesmerising about Bourne's Swan Lake -- despite its glamorous sexual ambivalence -- was the demonstration that the male swans would kill any of their number who tried to break out. In Golding's schoolboys, cast away beyond civilisation, prey to their hormones and their desperation to survive, Bourne has found another essay about the psyche of the child, and particularly boys, always his keenest strength. Dance shows what words can't tell so well -- how boys can get drunk on their own animal power and turn feral. In the current zeitgeist it is horribly moving.

Even more so because Bourne (as director) has not only men dancing as the schoolboys, but small boys too, recruited from local schools as the production travels. As a result you see some uncomfortably realistic physical bullying of the weak by the strong (London's young lads last week were utterly convincing), as well as a gruesomely bleeding pig's head. That the boys seem abandoned inside a wrecked ship rather than on an island cleverly alters the design of the fantasy from heat and light to darkness, ghosts and torches inside creaking metal, all brilliantly fused by Lez Brotherston (design), Chris Davey (lighting) and Terry Davies. Davies's score melds echoes of choirboys with ecstatic jungle beats, religion overlaying voodoo -- and I loved the replacing of the conch with a drumstick and a Shell oil barrel. …

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