Thursday, 1 October 2015

Brave New World

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars


"Forget about the future," says pill-pacified pleasure seeker Lenina
at one point in Dawn King's stage adaptation of Aldous Huxley's dystopian 1931
novel en route to an emotion-free liaison with Bernard Marx, the most awkward
alpha male in town. "There's nothing we can do about it. Just live for
today."

Such a self-absorbed lifestyle choice was probably as all the rage in
Huxley's between-the-wars world as it is today. All dressed up in space-age
wigs, video projections resembling a Brian Eno installation and a stentorian
electronic soundscape care of pop panoramicists These New Puritans, however,
James Dacre's production for the Royal and Derngate, Northampton and The Touring
Consortium renders the story as all too recognisable prophecy.

It opens as a lecture, with the audience the new trainees being given a guided tour around a
hatchery centre where test tube babies are sired in a social caste system that
seemingly seals their fate for a half-life of feels-free kicks. This sets a tone
of dispassionate ice-cool ennui only broken when Gruffordd Glyn's Bernard goes on
a not so hot date to the badlands with Olivia Morgan's Lenina. Here they stumble
on William Postlethwaite's John The Savage, a Shakespeare-quoting bit of rough
who becomes a messiah-like cause célèbre, inspiring random outbreaks of sex,
violence and poetry before running off to the wilderness with Lenina.

Watching over all this is the World State Controller, Mond, played by
Sophie Ward as a gimlet-eyed social engineer who calls the shots in a slickly
realised if bleakly desolate affair that suggests people power has already been
tranquilised into submission.

Ends

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