Theatre preview: Brave New World
Stage adaptation of Huxley's dystopian novel hits the road
Aldous Huxley’s novel stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 as a classic dystopian novel of the 20th century. Describing a society built on eugenics and consumerism, and lashings of promiscuous sex, it imagines a totalitarianism maintained by pleasure rather than oppression.
The choice of These New Puritans – a band blessed with a rare, expansive musical vision – to provide the soundtrack emphasises how James Dacre’s production is determinedly contemporary. The casting of Sophie Ward (the ill-fated love interest in the film Young Sherlock) as the Controller of Western Europe reveals how the writer, Dawn King, wanted to create a modern dystopia.
‘I felt that having a female controller of Western Europe is more representative of our world today,’ she says (in the novel the controller is male). ‘I think Sophie Ward is a great choice to play the role because “Mond” is a person who has had to make hard decisions, has a strong sense of her own personal morality, and has real steely authority – qualities I think Sophie will accentuate.’
Aside from the intriguing feminist implications of this gender swap, Brave New World, unlike 1984, does not revel in the violence of oppression but explores how a population can be manipulated by the promise of freedom from religion, morality and aspiration. While the hero may be a ‘savage’, his noble impulses challenge the optimism that science and the market can set the human free.