Writer Diane Parkes is our guest blogger this week. We sent Diane backstage to watch rehearsals for the forthcoming Lord of the Flies – a new dance production based on the famous book by William Golding. It features 22 local lads aged 11-20 years who will have the amazing opportunity to dance on our stage with professional dancers from Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures.
I hear the noise as I push open the door to the Patrick Centre at Birmingham Hippodrome. It’s a thudding beat. As I enter the dance space I see a group of around 20 boys each thumping their feet into the ground and raising their arms with apparent abandon. The boys are in two circles – the little lads in the centre and the larger teens outside and they are circling, watching the centre. The boys are all dressed in jeans, T-shirts, tracksuit bottoms and trainers and, individually, they look just like lads you would pass in the street without a second glance. But in this close group there is an intensity, a certain edginess, almost a touch of menace. And there is a reason – because this is a rehearsal for the latest New Adventures production Lord of the Flies and all the boys in the circle are mastering their roles.
These boys have come from local schools and colleges and have been working on their parts for weeks. Some have trained in dance others have not but from where I am standing, a little nervously at the door, it is hard to tell the difference. For that moment they are totally focussed on what they are doing – they don’t even seem to notice me.
At the front and weaving around the circle are the two dance ambassadors Luke Sheppard and Laura Bray. Laura calls out “so it’s bounce, bounce, walk 2, 3, 4…” and so on, offering some direction to the group. In many ways this atmosphere is totally fitting – after all, the boys are rehearsing for that ultimate boys’ adventure gone wrong, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. And this intensity is what that story is all about. A group of boys, marooned on a desert island, who given a chance to live with no structure, no rules, no adults and no punishment literally turn savage.
What I am watching feels like kids gone wild preparing for a hunt. There is no sense of return, no sense of mercy, no sense of the individual – these are pack animals. And then suddenly, Luke hits the stop button on the computer, and the group breaks up. Now they are boys again. One walks out of the group to grab a drink, two have a quick push as they had strayed too close to each other, another laughs at a comment made by a lad nearby.
Luke wanders over for a quick chat with me while Laura shepherds the group back together and suggests another bit of rehearsal. There is a quick change of movement and the pack is back together again. I watch for an hour and throughout all this time the boys are totally engrossed. They want to learn, they want to get this right. They take direction from Laura and Luke without any questions other than to clarify a movement.
It is now nearly 4pm and the boys have been in rehearsal since 10am but there is no sense of tiredness or lack of concentration. It is clear that an audition process which took in more than 500 boys and whittled them down to a final cast of 22 chose well. The watch hits 4pm and Laura calls time. The group goes its separate ways, some into town, some to waiting parents, all alive with the action of the afternoon.
Here is something special for these boys – a chance to express themselves, to make new friends, to create something they never dreamed they could do. On 14 May they will be on-stage in one of the largest receiving venues in the country performing this very same dance alongside professional dancers from New Adventures. Their enthusiasm is contagious. I sense their anticipation and feel excited for them. If you’ll excuse the pun, I leave the rehearsal buzzing.
New Adventures & Re:Bourne’s Lord of the Flies opens at Birmingham Hippodrome on 14 – 17 May and is part of International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014. Click here for more information and to book tickets.
Click here to watch official trailer