Lord of the Flies by William Golding, dramatized by Judith Adams

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Lord of the Flies on BBC Radio 4 Extra

BBC Radio 4 Extra, 15 June - 6 July 2013
Lord of the Flies has become one of those texts that some readers take for granted.  It is regularly included on educational syllabi for learners both inside and outside the United Kingdom. There are also two film versions, one by Peter Brook (1963), the other by Harry Hook (1990); the earlier version in particular stressed every symbol with punishing didacticism in order to illustrate the beast lurking beneath every human being's apparently civilized veneer.
In this new radio version, we encounter Ralph (Finn Bennett), Jack (Richard Linnell), Piggy (Casper Hilton-Hille), and Simon (Jack Kane) and their fellow-castaways, as they come to terms with life on their desert island.  The experience is at once exhilarating yet frightening; they are free of all parental and pedagogical authority, and can make their own rules; but they find it difficult to cope with an alien world in which unseen threats perpetually lurk.  Sasha Yevtushenko's production emphasized the extent to which the boys' view of life - shaped by the rituals and language of a mid-Fifties school - seemed pathetically inadequate to their new situation.
Through an ingenious use of a narrator (Ruth Wilson), the production also stressed the contrast between the boys' public encounters - most of which were governed by the desire for 'rules' (for example, using the conch-shell to signal one's desire to speak) - and their imaginative projections of what a world without rules might be like.  This strategy brought out one of the novel's major themes - ignored in both film versions: all of the boys have wild imaginations, and now have the chance to translate thoughts into action.  The consequences of this, however, are dire, as they have no way of restoring their fašade of respectability.  The music - a combination of eerie voices and a dulcet melody played on a didgeridoo-like instrument - emphasized the unearthly aspect of the boys' thoughts.
Radio has one major advantage over film in dramatizing a work like Lord of the Flies; it can suggest a sinister world through a single sound, rather than having to show anything.  Yevtushenko's production managed to achieve this, making us well aware that there is a "beastie" actually lurking in the midst of the boys' world.  Whether it was a physical beast, or merely a projection of their collective imagination was left deliberately unclear.