BRAVE NEW WORLD
by Aldous Huxley adapted by Dawn King.
Tour to 5 December 2015.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden at Royal & Derngate (Royal auditorium) Northampton.
Alpha production values with beta-plus performances.
There’s no doubt director James Dacre can put on a good show. He’s certainly been doing it since he arrived in Northampton, animating the Royal’s stage with busy, detailed and inventive action in Charles Dickens, Arthur Miller and now Aldous Huxley, in this scientific critique of World Government optimism found in H G Wells.
These three, perhaps significantly, were not originally meant for the stage. Miller’s The Hook was a potential film-script, brilliantly choreographed for Northampton and Liverpool theatres, while the other two began as novels.
Dickens’ work is often described as theatrical, but dramatising it can create a sense of confinement, certainly over a single evening. Huxley’s 1931 future-vision novel reaches the stage more successfully. It’s shorter, while the action adapts more readily to the constant flow of events which creates the structure of Dawn King’s adaptation and allows Dacre’s invention full scope.
Beginning when the audience is addressed as new arrivals at the state fertility clinic. In the sense of workers, which places them in the top two social drawers, alphas or betas. Social gradings, scientifically determined at birth, run down the Greek alphabet, from strategic decision-makers with access to all files – meet Sophie Ward’s ever-smiling Margaret Mond, whom Ward invests with a suggestion of sceptical humour.
We never learn if that conceals anything. The clinic is created with static verve. Everyone’s happy in their work, part of the Contented Society. But even here there’s the suggestively named Bernard Marx, suspected result of miscegenation, who doesn’t quite fit his alpha-ness.
Between them Dacre and adapter Dawn King provide a shortish ride in a fast theatrical machine. Speed, visual invention and music keep the adventure on the rails, with hardly a let-up. The limitation is a lack of any developed character. This could be the point; Huxley shows a society where sexual pleasure is innocently enjoyed in a disease-free future but love and emotional involvement are seen as unhygienic.
There’s scope for more of Ward’s implication in the rugged central performances. Yet the end, with the audience addressed again as new recruits, allows King to finish with a killer line.
Henry: David Burnett.
Bernard Marx: Gruffudd Glyn.
Thomas the Director: James Howard.
Heimholtz Watson: Scott Karim.
Linda: Abigail McKern.
Lenina: Olivia Morgan.
Benito: Theo Ogundipe.
Polly: Samantha Pearl.
John the Savage: William Postlethwaite.
Margaret Mond: Sophie Ward.
Director: James Dacre.
Designer: Naomi Dawson.
Lighting: Colin Grenfell.
Sound: George Dennis.
Music: These New Puritans.
Video: Keith Strachan.
Movement: Eddie Kay.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Fight directors: Rachel Bown-Williams, Ruth Cooper-Brown of RC Annie.
Assistant director: Jesse Jones.
4-26 Sep Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Wed; BSL Signed Thu 7.45pm; Captioned Tue Royal & Derngate (Royal auditorium) Northampton 01604 624811 www.royalandderngate.co.uk
29 Sep-3 Oct 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Audio-described 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1.30pm); BSL Signed Sat 2.30pm; Captioned Wed 7.30pm King’s Theatre Edinburgh 0131 529 6000 www.edtheatres.com
6-10 Oct Tue-Thu; Sat 7.3pm Fri 8pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Oxford Playhouse 01865 305305 www.oxfordplayhouse.com
13-17 Oct 7.30pm Mat Thu 2pm: Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1pm); Captioned Wed Theatre Royal Nottingham 0115 9889 5555 www.trch.co.uk
20-24 Oct 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2pm Captioned Wed Everyman Theatre Cheltenham 01242 572573 www.everymantheatre.org.uk
3-7 Nov Tue; Thu-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Grand Theatre Wolverhampton 01902 429212 www.grandtheatre.co.uk
10-14 Nov 7.30pm Mat Thu 2p; Sat 2.30pm Darlington Civic Theatre 01325 486555 www.darlingtoncivic.co.uk
24-28 Nov 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2pm Blackpool Grand Theatre 01253 290190 www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk
1-5 Dec 7.30pm Mat Wed 2pm; Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm Captioned Wed 7.30pm Alhambra Theatre Bradford 01274 432000 www.bradford-theatres.co.uk