Looking Back to Look Forward: Finding Relevance in a Classic Story
A BUZZ Blog by Claire Wynveen,
We at Litmus like to look back to look forward. This has inspired our mandate and the classic stories we work with. After tackling Shakespeare (Matchbox Macbeth) and gothic literature (Birth of Frankenstein) and mining those classics for insight into our modern condition, we wanted to try our hand at something a little different. We wanted to look back, but not quite as far back. We wanted to look at a piece of art that attempted to look forward itself – one that tried to look through us and into a dystopian future.
At first the obvious choice seemed to be George Orwell’s 1984. It is saturated with dramatic potential: Big Brother, doublethink, thought control, violent and heinous state crimes. But the more we mulled over the field of dystopian literature, the more we kept landing on Brave New World. It seems to have more to say to us. It speaks more about our city, our friends and ourselves. Instead of displaying a world beaten into submission by fear and pain, it shows us a world where the populace is submissive because of an excess of comfort and pleasure. It shows us a future where our liberty and our humanity could be compromised not by what we hate (fear, pain, war) but by what we love (entertainment, pleasure, consumption). It shows us a future where we could, quite possibly, amuse ourselves to death. And that frightens us.
After living with the material for over a year now, we’ve begun to ask some new questions. We’ve started to talk about the outcome of rebellion in a society that has become pacified by an excess of comfort and pleasure. (Sound familiar?)
We’ve asked: what happens in this world when a rebel appears, such as our protagonist Bernard Marx? Or what happens in this world when the status quo is questioned? And, finally, what happens when the status quo and all it offers (entertainment, drugs, sex, comfort, pleasure) swallows up that rebellion?
These questions have made this almost hundred-year-old novel come alive for us as a company. It has become personal. It has become about now, Toronto, 2015. Because we know that we are implicated too. Anyone who has chosen comfort over exertion, rest over work, or a night on the couch watching Netflix over fighting for a cause they believe in has lived in the dystopian World State of Brave New World – even if only for a moment.
Our goal is to use Brave New World as a scalpel, to peel back and dissect the parts of ourselves we would rather not acknowledge. And to use Huxley’s World State as a mirror, to help us look at our own state more clearly – particularly on the eve of our federal election.
Please join us for a brief showing of our work-in-progress on October 16 and 17 at 7:30pm. Details here.
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