In October 1949, Aldous Huxley wrote a letter to George Orwell respectfully suggesting that his 1931 novel Brave New World better represented the future mankind had to fear than Nineteen Eighty-Four, which had been published that June. “Within the next generation,” he argued, “I believe that … the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.” He added: “The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency.”
As much as I’m an admirer of Orwell, and North Korea serves as grim evidence that a wholly brutalising model of totalitarianism of the sort he described can persist, Huxley’s predictions are proving eerily attuned to our technological age. That line about “increased efficiency” could hardly better sum up the thrust of this visually astonishing, intellectually invigorating show from theatre company 1927, which taps our anxiety about being manipulated by shadowy corporations and agencies under the veil of progress and distils that into a delicious nectar.
Pioneers in a field of theatre that makes much of the competition look old-hat – integrating live performance with intricately crafted animation – Suzanne Andrade (director, writer) and Paul Barritt (film, animation, design) draw loosely here on the Golem myth. This is the Jewish folklore that suggested it was possible, using the right incantations, to turn a mound of clay into an animate slave-man.