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A New World Order
5 stars

Brighton Town Hall
Brighton Festival
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

A New World Order was first performed in this venue during 2007's Brighton Festival. Now it’s back, and with its themes of repression of dissidence and state-sanctioned violence, it is more timely than ever.

This brilliant production stages scenes from 5 short Pinter plays (A New World Order, One for the Road, Precisely, Mountain Language and Press Conference) in the plush offices, dingy basements and hidden places of Brighton Town Hall. The building was once Brighton's police station, and the old cells in the lower levels have a disturbing haunted feel. With echoes of Kafka, 1984 and Brazil, this production also weaves in threads of modern human rights issues, with prisoners in orange jumpsuits and torturers dressed as British squaddies.

It's not an interactive show, but we are ushered from space to space by surly security, who occasionally pull people out of the crowd and escort them through other doorways. Sometimes they come back, sometimes they don’t. We are split randomly into groups and taken in different directions. Friends in the audience are separated and don’t know where their companions are, or when they might be able to join them again. It's all brilliantly-done, and adds to a real sense of unease: we are not in control, and the people who are can be unpredictable and dangerous. Unnervingly we hear dogs barking and children screaming; we walk through archives of mouldering files that are marked with words like 'Disappeared'.

As the show continues, beginning in civic splendour and then revealing the rotten foundations on which this is built, we discover that all this is being done in the name of keeping the world “clean for democracy”. The topicality of Pinter's dialogue is astounding, and the fact that this piece is built on the work of a truly great writer means that this is one site-specific promenade piece that offers more than striking visuals.

It's rare to find a piece where setting, script, direction, innovation and performances (I particularly liked Jem Wall and Beth Fitzgerald) come together to create something with such an unflinching message. The piece's devastating and abrupt conclusion leaves you with no doubt that it has something important to say about the world we are living in today, and not an ounce of shyness about saying it.

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