PICTURE the scene. London. 2540AD. A thousand new trainees (the audience) have gathered in a shadowy laboratory to undergo psychological conditioning that will prepare them for their new home - Utopia. But wait. There’s a downside. It has many unsuspecting bylaws.
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Originally written in 1931, Aldous Huxley’s vision of profound societal changes in a futuristic world seem positively contemporary by today’s standards. After all, there are those would argue the world is indeed run by a small, powerful elite who want you to consume, stop thinking, and know your place.
Dawn King’s new theatrical adaptation is loyal to Huxley’s ideas, however, just like the characters’ motives in the novel, she has opted for instant gratification over substance.
If large telescreens, tacky nightclubs and helicopter sounds are all she can envision, then there’s nothing particularly brave or new about the world she is trying to create.
James Dacre’s direction means scenes which ought to be poignant and moving appear flippant and blase. Perhaps that’s the point. Take John, The Savage (William Postlewaite) for example; when introduced to this new society of shallow show-boaters, he’s treated like a guest on the Jeremy Kyle show.
Even cultural differences come across like a lecture rather than the telling of a story. Your friend is depressed? Give them a happy pill (a drug called Soma). Don’t want to fix that old, beautiful building? Tear it down. Want to have sex? Then choose your partner - no-one belongs to anyone anyway.
Given how relevant some of Huxley’s themes are in 2015, a trick appears to have been missed here. It’s watchable, yes, but it could easily be developed into something much more meaningful.