Brave New World, based on the novel by Aldous Huxley is adapted by Roger Parsley at The Nottingham New Theatre. The adaptation explores the existence of a dystopian future in which the emotions, desires and inclinations of inhabitants are manipulated. A group of world controllers rule with the totalitarian mantra of Community, Identity, Stability, reinforcing the ideology that everyone belongs to everyone else. However, when an individual begins to feel unfulfilled and disconnected from the restricted, clinical environment, he sets in motion a series of events that discover cracks in the foundations…
Lenina (Izzie Masters), The Director (Leonardo Goodall), Fanny (Bethan Mullen) and Bernard (Arnaud Lacey) open the play by directly addressing the audience as members of a lecture hall. They preach the importance of test tube conception as a way of population control. By addressing us directly we are immediately transferred onto the stage and into the play with them, a clever technique to incorporate the audience from the open.
The dystopian world is conveyed by a series of clinical white projections on a widescreen projection.
One of the main characters, Bernard, is skilfully depicted by Lacey who separates himself from the rest of his colleagues through his restless body movements and stuttering, juxtaposed next to the authoritive figure of The Director. Both the characters uphold a plausible relationship through witty dialogue and employment of their surrounding space. This stereotypical employee relationship is juxtaposed with the rules that any person may ‘have’ another whenever they please. Masters also effortlessly conveys a frustrated Lenina as she wishes to be lusted after by Bernard, who finds the conditions inhumane. The complex correspondence highlights the immoral and impersonal nature of sex without love and equally blurs the line of consent.
The stage set is simple yet effective. The dystopian world is conveyed by a series of clinical white projections on a widescreen projection. The projector not only reinforces the reliance on technology but also successfully highlights the movements and positions of the characters. A highlight of the play includes the story navigated by the savage John, excellently narrated by Cameron Walker and mimed by Victoria Rudolph and Nicole Vigilance. The two actresses are silhouetted behind the screen and act out the clash of civilisation in a caricature like manner by enlarging and contorting their bodies against the stage lights. Alongside this superb use of lighting, the soundtrack was multi-faceted as the scenes and props were punctuated by sound effects, adding another layer of authenticity. Initiating the sound effects in perfect time with the stage directions is easier said than done. At times, more creativity could have been injected into the limited variety of costumes that occasionally seem banal.
What was lacking in costume was compensated by the emotional, intimate and evocative acting
Having said that, what was lacking in costume was compensated by the emotional, intimate and evocative acting throughout. Perhaps elaborative costumes would have distracted from the pertinent issues introduced and addressed. Brave New World abolishes life as we know it and introduces a future controlled by technology and medically regulated happiness. The talented cast successfully explore the multi-faceted ideologies of the human race in a digestible, dynamic and raw performance. An excellent portrayal of Huxley’s disconcerting future.