In his adaptation of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, Nigel Williams reverts to a traditional, three-act structure with two intervals.
Narrative events are pared away to the most essential ones: the break-away of the hunting pack; the pig hunt and sighting of the "Beast" which results in the death of Simon; the attack on Piggy and Ralph and the final rescue. These provide a long, tense build-up and climax to each act.
In astonishingly strong performances from Warwickshire schoolboys, directed by Elijah Moshinsky, the two parallel themes of the book are sharply defined: the ripping away of the thin cloak of civilisation to expose the savage beneath and the wonderfully diverse characteristics in man which enabled that complex civilisation to develop in the first place.
In Marc Eliot's Jack, the "choir prefect", we see the urge to status and power which drives towards savage dictatorships, while Daniel Brocklebank's portrait of Ralph beautifully captures an innate sense of decency, justice and order ("We will keep ourselves decent; we will keep the fire going") and the fragility of these abstract qualities against the force of primitive instinct.
The two outsiders, Piggy (Christopher Hudson) and Simon (Edmund Kingsley) are equally well realised, the one with all the bright, intelligent ideas but a gift for putting everyone's backs up and the other a thinker, dreamer, visionary whose intellectual courage threatens the dark myths and fears on which dictatorship thrives.
Underpinning these important roles is a whole ensemble strength of performances which present both the "herd" and the individual voices within it, played on Chris Dyer's austere sun-bleached ramp sloping sharply down to a sandy beach.
A F In repertoire at the RSC's studio theatre The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon until September 7. Tickets: 01789 261974.