Tuesday, 13 October 2015

"Brave New World"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.

People have compared this play and novel by Aldous Huxley with George Orwell's "1984", and while there are similarities between the two, this play is more graphic with more shocks than the Orwellian classic.

Written in 1931, the play anticipates developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning that combine profoundly to change society.

It starts in a factory environment where spermatozoa is being matched up with the best of the eggs to make quality humans from alpha to gamma level, depending on the jobs they will be given when they are old enough.

One of the factory "alphas", Bernard, who it's rumoured to be not a 100% alpha manages to find a "savage" in John The Savage, a man who has not been "conditioned" and doesn't buy in to the Brave New World way of life. A way of life where art has been banished, certain books removed from libraries, including John's favourite, Shakespeare. He is soon treated like a celebrity in the land because he is different.

John speaks with the Shakespearian rhythm and rhyme, and even the title, "Brave New World" is derived from Miranda's speech in "The Tempest", Act 5 Scene 1.

In the end, John's "M", or mother to you and I, dies and disappointed with the lack of support and help from Bernard and the rest of the New World doctors and inhabitants, he is removed from the colony to a separate island where he tortures himself which, after giving in to his carnal desires with Lenina, something he had previously been shocked by her "free and easy" attitude, he ends his life in a quite graphic and shocking way.

Although it was written in 1931, it's set at a time in the near future and it's quite unnerving to think this may be what our children and Grandchildren may have to look forward to. It's shocking in the way it educates children in reproduction and the openness of the subject matter, it's self flagellation and it's conditioning techniques are quite frightening.

What also makes it impact more is the loud sound effects, designed by George Dennis, and it's lighting, designed by Colin Grenfell, specifically designed to give the ultimate joint shock to the system effect.

The acting is controlled but passionate with the main characters of Bernard (Gruffudd Glyn), John The Savage (William Postlethwaite) and Lenina (Olivia Morgan), really standing out from the already excellent cast.

My only slight criticism is that there are several screens with projections dotted around the set, and while most are repeated from screen to screen, at times they meant I was watching the screens and not the actors. So much to look at that maybe this only slightly detracted from what is a wonderful piece of science fiction, or possible science fact, in the same league as the aforementioned Orwell as well as H.G. Wells.

That said the play lasts two and a half hours with break, but no way did it seem that length, due to the fact that you could not take your eyes off of the captivating action and the clinical characters.

The play was adapted by Dawn King with original music, which really adds to the whole ambience of the play, by These New Puritans.Directed brilliantly by James Dacre, with an excellent set design by Naomi Dawson and video design by Keith Skretch..

"Brave New World" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 17 October 2015.

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