Actress Sophie Ward is surprisingly understated about her role as the ‘Regional World Controller’ in the new staging of Brave New World.
In the new work, adapted from Aldous Huxley’s novel, written in the 1930s and predicting the dystopian world 100 years from now, she plays a female version of the lead protagonist Mustapha Mond.
Dawn King, who has adapted Aldous Huxley’s original work for this premiere tour which comes to the Grand Theatre, Blackpool this month, made the key alteration in turning lead character Mustapha into a woman, named Margaret, the role Sophie plays.
And Dawn has explained her decision, saying: “I took this decision primarily because as a feminist, I wanted to increase the gender equality of the show. I also felt that having a female world controller of Western Europe is more representative of our world today, and of a world of the future.
“In the novel the character is called ‘Mustapha Mond’, but in my adaptation I chose the name Margaret, for its obvious allusions. “I think Sophie Ward is a great choice to play the role because ‘Mond’ is a person who has had to make hard decisions, has a strong sense of her own personal morality, and has real steely authority – qualities I think Sophie will accentuate.”
In Brave New World, residents are faced with issues of drugs, sexual promiscuity, privacy and consumerism, among others.
Sophie, known to many for her TV roles including series Land Girls, Heartbeat and Holby City, said: “Although Aldous predicted many things in writing the novel 100 years ago, he didn’t predict how gender would effect politics, so Dawn literally swapped the gender of the character - it’s a name change and nothing more.
“But she faces the same dilemmas and is still complex as a character as she’s in charge of everything you see; and whether she wants responsibility or to be a free thinker.
“It’s interesting to play, as you see the doubts she has as well and those are male or female traits.”
As well as updating gender roles in society, the production is also successfully seeking to draw in new audiences to the theatres it visits.
“It’s bringing in a new audience that doesn’t necessarily go to the theatre, which is what it’s supposed to be doing - growing a younger audience who come along and then want to see something else,” Sophie added.
“The dystopian novel and future that it tells of is like is very much part of young people’s lives, with things like The Hunger Games and studies of 1984 in school, they have heard of the ideas of Brave New World, things like social networking and privacy issues.
“The work particularly appeals to young people as they are making decisions on their way in life. They can recognise the things in it that are happening already.
“Being faced with the choices they are is very thought provoking and questioning if we necessarily want that future to go any further.”
* Brave New World, Grand Theatre, Blackpool, Tuesday to Saturday, November 24 to 28. Tickets cost from £19 on (01253) 290190.