Somewhere, hopefully in a locked vault in the basement of the BFI, is a 16mm black-and-white version of Lord of the Flies in which I play Percival Wemyss Madison, the smallest of the boys marooned on the desert island after a plane crash in William Golding’s influential novel.

In Lazarus Theatre’s revival at Greenwich, Percival is played by the smallest girl in a piece of randomised neutral casting that neither illuminates nor extends the original.

It’s a work famously about tribalism and the animal instinct in human nature, and by not making Jack and the hunter-gatherer savages one gender and Ralph and the timorous beach-dwellers another, director Ricky Dukes seems to have discarded a golden opportunity to explore feral behaviour as a battle between the sexes.

It’s partly scripted, but clearly workshopped with the same faux-Stanislavkian fervour we applied fifty years ago when our painfully trendy director also told us it was ‘seminal’ and ‘Brechtian’ and ‘Euripidean’ and ‘relevant to the politics of the day’. Although in 1965 the big news story was Dr Beeching’s axing of the railway branch lines under the first Harold Wilson administration, so I’m not sure how we connected with that.

In practice, we mostly just said the lines and tried not to get bitten by the bugs in the undergrowth.

Where this version does succeed is in the physical theatre: Julia Cave’s movement is urgent, stylised and well-designed and the young cast clearly relish performing it. The lighting and soundscape are also excellent, especially in the switching between the two tribes, and setting up the ‘shock’ moment.

Maybe it gives too much too soon: it’s genuinely horrifying how quickly the boys are transformed into savages and darkness overwhelms the island and there’s some prurient display of blood-smeared teenage toros.

Whether this sort of sophomoric indulgence serves the text well is debatable. If you didn’t already know the novel, you might struggle with the plot as did the teens behind me, loudly puzzling who or what has been killed at the end of the overlong first act.

In fact, in a sparse audience composed mostly of Year 11 girls, I guess Lord of the Flies remains an examination text. Lots of phones were consulted during the performance which also demonstrates how the production fails to engage even its peer group.

I know it got four star reviews this time last year, but this Flies remains in the larval state. While it presents a terrific workshop experience for its participants, it hasn’t matured into a piece to thrill audiences.

until 30 March