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William Golding’s Lord of the Flies has long captivated readers with its dystopian tale of schoolboy innocence transformed into primal savagery. Now in 2012, more than 50 years after the book was first published, the themes remain as relevant as ever, and modern audiences will see many parallels with present day society in director Anthony Skuse’s take on the famous work, now showing at Newtown’s New Theatre.

It is war time, and a group of schoolboys are thrust together after a plane crash leaves them stranded on a deserted island. Attempts at order are made but the scene quickly descends into chaos; egos flare and peer pressure rears its ugly head. The situation deteriorates further when the boys begin talking of a ‘beast’ that haunts the island, a figure that visits them in their dreams and sends them into madness.

On a stripped-back stage, the boys seem truly alone, with nothing to protect them but their wits and each other. Leading a strong cast is Ralph, who struggles to remain decent when it would be easier to simply abandon the weaker boys and get carried along with the anarchy. Jack is also terrific as the ringleader who brutally bullies his peers to commit unspeakable atrocities. The second act is rich with drama as the boys give in to their urges, culminating in a shocking finale to leave audiences pondering how frighteningly easy it is to shift from right to wrong on the slippery slope of acceptable human behaviour.

Until May 12, New Theatre, 542 King St, Newtown, $25-30, 8093 6563, newtheatre.org.au