Theatre preview: Brave New World

Stage adaptation of Huxley's dystopian novel hits the road

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Theatre preview: Brave New World

Sophie Ward / credit: Gemma Betts

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.

Brave New World

  • Written by: Dawn King (Adaptation)

James Dacre directs Dawn King's adaptation of Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel, in which a genetically engineered class system has brought order and stability to the world. With original music by The New Puritans.

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