Saturday, 10 November 2012

Review: 'The New World Order: Part 1: 1645'

From independent URY reviewer Ben Bason,

Before reading Ben's review check out the Youtube trailer here!

If it’s done effectively, radio can be a powerful medium for drama. Without the benefit of vision, sounds must paint a mental image that pulls the listener out of reality and throws them into a fictional world. The New World Order, URY’s more ambitious drama to date, certainly succeeds.

Based on the novel by Ben Jeapes, the drama constitutes a layering of realistic sound effects, convincing acting and a specially-composed musical score that transports us back to the Civil War; with guns firing, men shouting and a dramatic instrumental underscore, you could be forgiven for thinking this is the soundtrack to a Hollywood film. The audio imagery is so vivid it you can picture the action taking place right in front of your eyes and the pivotal moments are enhanced by appropriate music courtesy of James Whittle, providing that extra tension, tenderness or drama that the key scenes need. 

Set in 1645, The New World Order mixes history with science-fiction, as the Holekhor, an alien race from a ‘New World’, emerge in London during the English Civil War. I know what you’re thinking, sounds a bit Doctor Who-ish, But strangely, it works. We’re introduced to a Holekhor called Dhon Do (Luke De Belder), who returns to our world from the parallel world of the Holekhor to lead an invasion of his people. But since he’d last been here, the human woman he loved has given birth to his child, and things get complicated. De Belder delivers a strong performance and, along with the other actors playing Holekhor parts, employs an accent that’s somewhere between Russian and Polish. The decision to have the characters speak in this was perhaps not a wise one as there were a few occasional slips and although it’s an effective way to distinguish the race from the human characters on radio, it is easy to mistake the race as merely foreign, rather than other-worldly.  Other convincing performances came from Joe Williams as the troubled Oliver Cromwell and Ryan Hall as a nasty young Prince Charles. The whole cast excel themselves and combine to produce an outstanding performance.

‘The New Wold Order’ is not merely fantasy – it’s quite reliant on political and social themes as well as the other-worldly narrative of the Holekhor. This is really where John Wakefield, who adapted the text from the original novel, has succeeded; with some editing the drama could have worked as a significantly shorter piece, but we would have missed out on some of the different strands of the story; the political frustration of Cromwell (Joe Williams), the split loyalties of Dhon Do and the developing relationship between Prince Charles and Dhon Do’s son Daniel (Toby King) – all essential ingredients that make the drama what it is.

The script is excellently written and contains many of the lines from the original novel but it’s in the intimate scenes between two or three characters that it comes into its own – the words exact just the right amount of poignancy and combine beautifully with the orchestral soundtrack. Only once or twice did the script disappoint, with historical questionability – would they really have said “what the hell?” in the times of Cromwell? I think not.

The audio mixing is also occasionally confusing. The level of the actors’ speech sometimes tends to be too low, and although the sound effects really enhance the reality of scenes, they do at times overpower the lines.

Despite these slight technical hiccups, 'The New World Order: Part 1: 1645'  is a truly remarkable achievement from URY Drama. It’s a well-paced progression through the emotions of the story and truly gripping. The original score is the cherry on the top, creating appropriate atmosphere and making the drama sound extremely professional. 

So catch 'The New World Order' while you can – it’s only broadcast once and won’t be available online afterwards. Make sure you tune in on Sunday at 2pm for the first part: you can’t afford to miss it.

Find out more about the production on our event page here!

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