Brave New World
Solid adaptation of dystopian classic starring Sophie Ward and William Postlethwaite
Dawn King's adaptation of Brave New World, aside from swapping the gender of the world controller, is faithful to both the plot and spirit of Aldous Huxley's novel. A future paradise that maintains peace through genetic manipulation and social condition is challenged by the arrival of a savage – a Shakespeare-quoting, morally righteous and passionate man.
With solid performances from the cast, including a dynamic William Postlethwaite as John the Savage, the main themes of the source are kept intact: the battle between freedom and peace, social solidity and creativity are explored in a confrontation between the savage and Margaret Mond, the controller (Sophie Ward) towards the finale.
However, the script struggles to contain the details of the plot and the themes; the structure falters as too much action is crammed into the two hours, and character development is sacrificed. The question of whether the savage's complaints against this civilisation are fudged, even as the comparison between Huxley's Brave New World and contemporary society – that advertising is the shared conditioner of both communities – is made explicit.
There are occasional bursts of brilliance: the argument between the two visions of free will, Lenina (Olivia Morgan) feeling the experience of real, unconditioned desire, and These New Puritans' subtle soundtrack. However, the familiar combination of physical theatre montages, exposition-heavy interludes and fragmented episodes make this a workmanlike rather than an inspiring re-imagining of a classic and philosophical novel.
Reviewed at Royal & Derngate, Northampton. Touring until Sat 5 Dec.