Miss Seville and Miss Leach (with the able assistance of Adam Forrester) embarked on a brave and audacious effort in staging Aldous Huxley’s dystopian drama “Brave New World” as a junior play. Huxley’s demanding play requires a realism and honesty that is often very difficult to achieve; it is very rare that a junior play is so dark, so bleak. However, the enthusiastic and very able cast of 41 were extremely convincing – it moved and shocked as well as providing moments of true humour.
The simple, yet effective, set provided a powerful backdrop to the action on stage, and its simplicity allowed for the audience to be fully involved in the dialogue of the characters. From the start, Josh Elliot’s booming narrator shone a powerful light onto the bleak world of this play, one where test-tube babies are bred in categories, and emotions and feeling are forbidden and prevented by the drug “soma”. Such characters were no finer than Max McLay’s Bernard Marx; a rebel who fights against the drugged-up dystopia and pays a grand price. Max’s genuine ability shone through in his portrayal, and his chemistry with Arthur Handscomb’s Helmoltz Watson was a delight on stage. The manipulator and controller of the operation was Miss Mond, played brilliantly by Ruby Dickson. The use of costuming clearly defined the characters of this play and highlighted the injustices of the human categorising system, the ‘epsilons’ sat at the bottom, where the deltas, gammas, betas and alphas rose above them. To quote Ollie Corbett’s dashing Henry Foster, they sought to make “a better kind of person”. Bleak, indeed.
The twist comes at the narrator’s discovery of his son, John, a ‘savage’, as born by natural birth rather than artificial test-tubing. John “Savage” was played by Matt Gosper, and his genuine desire to seek out the ‘brave new world’ of the play was palpable. John falls in love with test-tuber Lenina (an accomplished performance from Ella Basing), and ‘emotions’ creep in again. His ‘mother’ (dare I say the word?) was Linda, played with real flair by Margo Lubkova, whose portrayal of Linda was moving and humorous – the shock of the play was made more powerful by her interventions; once she dies, killed off by the system, we feel the injustice of this world.
The final sequences of the play were by far the most powerful; while Miss Mond parades around declaring “emotions are abolished”, and Shakespeare is banned for being “old” (perhaps the most shocking discovery of all, yet somehow resonant amongst GCSE English students ), John and Bernard Marx attempt to stand against it. Their failure is emphasised by John’s suicide and Henry Foster’s takeover of the test-tube-baby-company that runs the “brave new world”. The continuation of the physical sequence from the start of the play enforces a sense of futility in fighting against the establishment, it truly shows a powerful, bleak world.
There were too many fine performances from the enormous cast to mention them all, but every one had a powerful role to play. The chorus who formed the scenery, recruits, ‘savages’ and many others were all engaged, and proved testament to what junior drama can achieve. It is often fun and lighthearted, but this staging of “Brave New World” showed junior drama can ask some serious questions as well.