Based on Aldous Huxley’s novel, published in 1932, The Royal & Derngate’s Brave New World is a dystopian story in a futuristic society based on comfort without moral worries, love is vetoed but casual sex (engaging), is strongly instigated. Not friends with benefits because that implies that you’re with the same person. In this story, the characters do it with anyone. The population is kept happy with a legal, socially and culturally accepted drug called soma. People are created and cloned on conveyor belts to meet the needs of five different social classes, from ruling Alphas to near-stupid Betas. Your life isn’t your own. Everyone is made and designed to serve a certain faction who do different jobs in society. Betas, for example are middle management. They are made to serve without ever thinking about promotion but just intelligent enough to do their jobs competently.
“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
John The Savage
Bernard Marx (Gruffudd Glyn) is a very different Alpha male with a compulsive need to think. He thinks too much to the point that he can’t be controlled and he is a threat to the system that created him. He and a woman called Lenina Disney (Olivia Morgan) visit a habitat of ‘savages’ (normal people) where they meet a good-looking young man John, (William Postlethwait) and his mother, Linda (Abigail McKern) and bring them back to ‘civilization’. Savages are people who haven’t been made in a lab but people who were grown in a womb for nine months and born into the world the normal way. They are people like you and me.
John turns out to be the son of The Director (James Howard) of the cloning authority. This shows that The Director wasn’t always cold and unemotional. It showed that he was a ‘savage’ though the term savage, is a word to describe those that are different and we always fear those that are different, those who don’t follow the norms, those that disrupt the status quo. This revelation causes public scandal. Society and the media labelled John as a celebrity freak. John falls in love with Lenina but his lust is turned to ashes by his inability to speak in the modern tongue. He can only speak in Elizabethan English due his love of the playwright and thespian, William Shakespeare. John hates the materialistic and inhuman world so he asks to be sent to live in isolation, and gets a job as a lighthouse guard. Even at the lighthouse, he longs for Lenina.
The rapport between the actors on stage and the special effects were astounding as the actors and the effects interacted with each other. They were in harmony with one another and it was a sight to behold. The effects were of a high standard. I felt like I was watching an IMAX movie but on stage. Lighting, sound and set design were implemented really well. Stories of this genre and magnitude are difficult to execute when on stage but I felt that it was truly stellar. To depict a dystopian science fiction drama to such a high-class is very hard in theatre and the Royal & Derngate with Touring Consortium Theatre Company have pulled off a masterpiece. There’s been countless adaptations of the dystopian genre in film, television and in theatre such as: 1984 (George Orwell), Divergent Series (Veronica Roth), The Maze Runner Series (James Dashner), Animal Farm (George Orwell) and A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess). All of these are brilliant adaptations but even better as literature. What makes this stage production great, is that it’s the first ever adaptation for the stage and it’s a grand maiden voyage.
James Howard’s’ the Director was the obvious antagonist to begin with. I hated him from the get go. His character was annoyingly charming, ostentatious, cocky and pompous. Howard plays the role so well. You hate him but you kind of love to hate him and then he receives his comeuppance later in the play. You become attached to characters in a short space of time and when karma came for him, I felt sorry for him but then I remembered how he treated Bernard, so I didn’t feel too bad. The other standout performance was William Postlethwaite as John The Savage. He played this righteous man who went against the system even when everyone was out to stop him. Characters like Gruffudd Glyn’s Bernard was also a thinker but desired social acceptance more than celebrating his individuality. John rejoiced about his love for books (especially the banned ones) and he didn’t care what anyone thought. Being different is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something to be celebrated.
In conclusion, it was an incredibly well-written and well-directed play with very adult themes with raunchy themes but also political and sociological concepts. I cannot comment on how good it was compared to the book as I have yet to read it, but as a standalone production, I was blown away by the acting performances, the effects and the storyline. Brave New World is not so far from our own world in terms of the way people think. Many hide who they are and desire to fit in more than be individual. Brave New World is a critique of humanity and how humans hate difference and despise what they don’t understand because we can’t control it. If we can’t control it, than we must destroy it or send it away, for example when The Director wanted to send Bernard away to an island of solitude. All in all, I was very impressed. Acting, effects and storyline were great. Costume design, hair and makeup are to be commended as well. It was a slow burner, but stories off this genre often are, and I wouldn’t change anything. This play added to my existing ideology that you should never need to become part of crowd to fit in. Nobody can tell you how to think or how to feel. To feel isn’t weakness, it’s strength.