Lord of the Flies

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It’s the classic tale of survival of the fittest but like you’ve never seen it before. As part of The Malthouse Theatre’s Helium season, Kip Williams directs an innovate take on William’s Golding’s story of school boys gone awry by casting an all-female ensemble to take us on the confronting journey to the dark side of human nature in Lord of the Flies.

We caught up with one of the production’s leading ladies Zoe Boesen to talk gender bias, universal themes, women on stage and why you should order a side of fries with your theatre burger.

MILK BAR: What do you think is the value in replacing an all male cast with females?

ZOE BOESEN: It invites the audience to consider the story from a different perspective. Lord of the Flies is frequently discussed in terms of male behavior. Aggression, violence and physical dominance are not domains typically associated with the feminine, and I suppose this production encourages the audience to consider that these territories are not gender exclusive.

MB: Lord of the Flies has long been criticised for its misrepresentation of women, do you think females should have been included in Golding’s original story?

ZB: Females are very absent in Golding’s original story, certainly. Whether that equates to a misrepresentation of women, I’m not sure. I think the fact that the story is often discussed as a meditation on the darkness of humanity is interesting when you consider that all the characters are male.

MB: Do you think gender creates barriers in story telling?

ZB: Not so much barriers as a difference in contextualisation. I think the way a performer presents is generally read by an audience as part of the story that they are telling. In this production, we make no attempt to hide the fact that we are a group of female actors. Rather, we embrace the tension that it creates and push towards a territory which is human as opposed to gender bound.

MB: The overarching message of Lord of the Flies is the conflict between impulse and civilisation – do you think the central theme is challenged or strengthened by a female cast?

ZB: Again, I think it’s more about viewing these themes through a different lens. Power lust is not gender exclusive but as a society, we are not as used to seeing girls resort to violence as a means of domination. That being said, the production does not aim to make comment on the brutality of men.

It’s more about investigating what it does to re-contextualise behaviours that we are not as comfortable seeing women/girls engage in.

MB: Is there power in performing a boy’s tale as a female?

ZB: There is certainly power in having the opportunity to explore physical dominance and violence on stage. There are very few female roles which allow that.

MB: What are your thoughts on the portrayal of women in theatre?

ZB: I think we are at an exciting point in Australian theatre right now in that we are beginning to see a shift away from a long history of storytelling driven by patriarchy. There is a real push, particularly in independent theatre, to tell women’s stories, engage female theatre makers and realise female characters onstage in a far more satisfying way.

MB: What do you want audiences to take away from the production?

ZB: An exploded notion of gender-bound violence and a reconsideration of what it mean to be human.

MB: Lord of the Fries: genius or shameless marketing?

ZB: Genius. They should do a mock Piggy burger.

Lord of the Flies is playing at the Malthouse Theatre from Fri 28 June until Sun 14 July.
For tickets visit malthousetheatre.com.au.

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