Victorian boys will have the opportunity to become dance experts, thanks to Sir Matthew Bourne’s production of Lord of the Flies. This production is set to break the usual rules of casting a largescale production by finding those young men and boys yet to grace our stages.

In April next year, the State Theatre will be brought to life by Sir Matthew Bourne OBE’s New Adventures and RE:Bourne presenting Lord of the Flies. Through an intensive process, Lord of the Flies will reach out to a wide range of Victorian communities to find 24 young men to take to the stage as dancers, potentially for the very first time.

Lord of the flies boys

“What we’re looking for is a passion to be involved. No training necessary, though if young people have had it, that’s no problem. We’re hoping to get a mixture of people actually,” Sir Matthew Bourne said.

“We’d love to have a few people in the cast who just really want to get involved in an exciting project like this and have may never been in anything else on stage or never even been inside a theatre. That would be wonderful.”

These 24 young people will be found through an outreach program working with over 25 youth support organisations, cultural organisations, sporting groups, health and community services providers, local councils, indigenous cultural and community groups, secondary schools and dance and physical theatre training institutions throughout Victoria.

Lord of the Flies boys smile

When you speak to Sir Matthew Bourne, you can see just how much this project means to him. As someone who didn’t discover his love for dance until 22, he believes a project like this could make all the difference.

“I was interested before then, from the age of 4 or 5 onwards I was putting on a show or trying to perform or get kids down the street to be in my show,” he said.

“I was always doing stuff, but didn’t know where to direct that, so a project like this would have ignited that for me much earlier. It may not be that these boys are going to have careers in dance like I did, but I know what it can give you – a feeling of worth.

“The world of dance is one that’s very inclusive of all sorts of people and we try and reflect that in our professional cast and in our attitudes that we present to them as the young people there.”

In addition to the 24 young people are eight professional dancers, whose auditions took place over the past weekend.

“I was excited by the talent here in Melbourne. I think people are actually a little bit more ready to engage here. They really made me laugh and they entertained me. We did some workshop improv things with them and I had a big smile on face the whole time, laughing out loud,” he said.

At the launch event on Tuesday 9 August, Arts Centre Melbourne CEO Claire Spencer said Lord of the Flies is a great story to tell because it’s a story everyone knows.

Lord of the Flies launch two

“It’s a magical and powerful production and one that is going to look absolutely extraordinary in the State Theatre. I still have my high school copy of Lord of the Flies, musty on my bookshelf at home,” she said.

“Our purpose is to bring people together for remarkable experiences and we don’t believe that peoples’ destinies are set by their postcode or their family income or where they were born or how well they’re educated. We think Lord of the Flies and Arts Centre Melbourne is a marriage made in heaven.

“I’m particularly looking forward to six months after the production has happened, to checking back in with the communities that we’ve worked with to see what the ongoing impact of the production has been. That’s where I think we will find really interesting stories.”

Victorian Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley MP said Lord of the Flies presents a huge opportunity for the potential young people involved, as well as Arts Centre Melbourne and Victoria as a whole.

“It is democratising the opportunities that the Arts Centre Melbourne will take to so many people across our state. This is really an extraordinary opportunity particularly for those from backgrounds of circumstances where pathways to mainstage performances are really non-existent,” he said.

“And even better, through the work of Arts Centre Melbourne and the partners in this production, a legacy fund has been put together on the back of this production that will financially support participating groups to further their dance and physical theatre opportunities in those local communities.

Lord of the Flies is all about targeting barriers to engagement and to make sure we have cultural creativity opportunities right throughout our state and that we see the diversity and multiplicity of who we are on stage.”

New Adventures Executive Director James Mackenzie-Blackman said Lord of the Flies tears up the rule book on how to make largescale theatre happens and who it is for. After 13 successful productions of Lord of the Flies in the UK following this structure, the team decided Melbourne was the perfect destination to take the show global.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been talking to a variety of potential international partners for us to take Lord of the Flies overseas for the first time. It’s really important for me to say that there really only is one place that’s right for this project to live for the first time, and that’s Melbourne,” he said.

“Unlike lots of other big touring shows and touring companies, this project is a massive jigsaw of expertise and passion, and we can’t just simply offload it off the back of our trucks into the State Theatre, present the work for your audiences, and off we go.

“Arts Centre Melbourne is an extraordinary group of people who care passionately about great art, but they also care passionately about the community of Melbourne and Victoria.

“Back in 2013 I said clearly that our ambition for Lord of the Flies was to change peoples’ lives through dance. That was a pretty big commitment. We now know many years after the production existed in the UK that it has absolutely done that. I really can’t wait to go on that journey again.”

Lord of the flies launch set

Sir Matthew Bourne initially worried about whether the creative team could actually pull off the show.

“Would it work for professionals with young people who had perhaps never been on stage before? Could we actually pull that off in the time that we had, for a paying audience who were coming expecting an excellent production?” he said.

“For me, the words that come out, that may sound a bit grand, are ‘life-changing’. I think that’s the main thing that I always think of when I think about the production and what makes it so worthwhile.

“It’s funny because when we started to do this project, it was all about the boys, they were the project. About young men, coming into this company and being part of a production. We were so set on that in our minds.

“The thing that was surprising eventually was that that people liked the show. Normally, you’re thinking about that all the time. I remember thinking ‘oh, we’re getting good reviews? People like it! It works as a piece of theatre. We’re telling a story.’

“We were so set on the experience we were giving the young people so it wasn’t really thought about.

“One of our boys in our very first group, he’s now in dance training in London. He didn’t fit in very well; he was hard work but had raw talent. I’ve seen him change and now he’s one of the top people in the school, he’s very popular.

“I can see him in our company. I can see it happening. He wasn’t the normal, average guy who would’ve gone into dance. He comes from a completely different place, which is what makes him exciting.”

The team behind Lord of the Flies are set to totally change the lives of Victorian young men and boys over the coming months.

Lord of the Flies is on at Art Centre Melbourne’s State Theatre 5 – 9 April 2017 for six performances.

Lord of the flies poster

Production images: Helen Maybanks

Media launch images: Dani Rothwell