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Lord Of The Flies

It quickly becomes apparent upon talking to Eloise Winestock that today will be no ordinary conversation. The Lord of the Flies actress approaches each question asked thoughtfully, answering them with meticulously eloquence and care. It’s obvious why Winestock was chosen to portray the antagonist of the story, Jack, with her proclivity towards empathy and compassion.

“I don’t see him as the bad guy, because I’m fighting for his little journey,” explains Winestock, detailing that despite Jack’s deplorable actions throughout the story – he uses fear as a device to manipulate and control the other boys on the island – he is still human. “I think he’s a just a very misunderstood, insecure little boy who’s desperately seeking approval and love, [despite doing] a lot of unlikeable things to the other kids in the story.”

 

Lord of the Flies is the newest addition to the Malthouse Theatre’s Helium season, a season that supports the performance of independent and contemporary Australian productions. Adapted from William Golding’s debut novel of the same name by Nigel Williams (Fortysomething, The Wimbledon Trilogy), Lord of the Flies illustrates the story of nine British boys who become stranded on an isolated island and details their descent into savagery. Fiercely affronting, the story explores morality, violence, civilisation and animal instinct, challenging our preconceived notions of what we perceive as humane and inhumane. Adding to this dichotomy will be the exploration of gender identity, something that Winestock admits could only be challenged through the use of an all-female cast.

 

“It’s made me really think about the issues we’re exploring through doing this story with women,” muses Winestock, iterating how the play and the book have made her reassess her viewpoint on society. “Placing women in these roles really highlights what we perceive as masculine behaviour and feminine behaviour. [Lord of the Flies] had made me question that [notion] and think what certain modes of behaviour are set genders and [whether] that’s a prejudice. It’s made me reassess, and come to the conclusion, that you shouldn’t separate behaviours into categories of gender, because there’s nothing to say that a girl couldn’t behave the same way a boy would if she was played in the situation as in Lord of the Flies.”

 

For Winestock, this is refreshing. The actress, who has performed in many classical theatre productions and last year played Bubba in the Melbourne Theatre Company’s revamp of Australian classic, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, admits that it’s really “empowering” to portray the character Jack, who is authoritarian, courageous and brutal, a role that many women in theatre rarely experience.

 

“In classical theatre, women are typically at the mercy of male authority figures. [Either] they’re at the mercy of an authority figure, or there’s a man that’s in control of [their] behaviour, or [they’re] obsessed with a man and that drives [their] story,” explains the actress, elucidating the trials of common Shakespearean female roles—Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, Ophelia in Hamlet and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “So, to be able to play a role in Lord of the Flies that is uninhibited by any kind of authority or male dominance is really empowering, and I find it really exciting to be able to play the character that is in control because you rarely get to experience that as a young female actress in theatre.”

 

Adding to this drive for dominance is the physicality of the stage. Instead of employing the use of artificial palm trees and sand to recreate the island environment, all nine actresses will be marooned on a raised platform for the entire duration of the play; yes, that means there are no intervals. However, according to Winestock, this stage dynamic intensifies the play. It helps create an unbroken story, mimicking the harrowing effect of Peter Brooks’ 1963 adaption that is still just as impressionable 40 years later.

 

“I’m really looking forward to what the audience’s response is,” admits Winestock enthusiastically. “We’ve decided what we want to say with it, but I think it’s going to be really interesting to see how they react to the idea of putting women in these male roles.”

 

BY AVRILLE BYLOK-COLLARD

Lord of the Flies is playing at the Malthouse Theatre from Friday June 28 – Sunday July 14.