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October 15, 2008 / Amy Bradney-George

New World Order

Ryan J-W Smith in New World Order

Ryan J-W Smith in New World Order

I sat in the dark theatre, hearing an American soldier share his story of violence, terror and injustice. How he had given the order to blow up a building then witnessed the devastation it caused an innocent family.

The reality of war hung oppressively in the air when the lights came up on a stage bare save for a man sitting on a chair, wine bottle in hand and tears in his eyes.

Few performances I’ve seen have been as gripping, touching and perceptive as New World Order. The one-man play from award-winning international playwright, actor, director and producer Ryan J-W Smith, deals with empire-building from the perspectives of three characters – The King, The Joker and The Veteran.

Political subterfuge and terror are a plague in today’s global society, and influence socio-political relationships both locally and globally. It’s daring to try and encapsulate the situation in a one-hour performance, but Smith pulls it off beautifully. The play combines details of contemporary conflicts with more general attitudes and theories to deconstruct an issue that has been relevant to civilisation throughout history.

Smith’s use of iambic, rhyming verse has previously earned him the title “The Bard Mark Two” (BBC), but while Shakespeare’s influence was clear, the theatrical conventions and the story went beyond that realm and into a brave new world. His masterful manipulation of language adds a timeless quality to the play that marks this work as a sophisticated, intelligent and emotive performance different to anything else being created today.

It’s rare to find a one-man show that’s engaging, entertaining and insightful, but by playing all three characters Smith highlights the common element between them – they’re only human. The simple staging contrasts with the complex characters and creates the perfect balance for us to think about what is being said. Having one person show us three different perspectives is a refreshing reminder of our basic human nature and the expectations that comes from our place in the status quo.

Transitions between the three characters are so smooth it’s easy to forget there is only one person on stage. Adept use of physicality and vocal nuances mark each character and compliment the depth of the text. Suspending disbelief is an almost unconscious act from start to finish.

Smith’s conviction is overwhelming and enlightening, generating critical thought on the state of things today. The use of diverse sources transform current war and terrorism discourses into something rich and strange. New World Order is an outstanding piece of theatre that opens the mind and calls for more discussion on an issue that is ages old but still starkly relevant today. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the state of our world and our humanity.

Ryan J-W Smith’s New World Order was performed at the Judith Wright Centre as part of the 2008 Brisbane Writers Festival.

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3 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Daniel Ted C. Feliciano / Oct 15 2008 8:24 am

    Why is it called New World Order?

  2. amybradneygeorge / Oct 15 2008 8:31 am

    There’s a conspiracy theory known as ‘New World Order’ which talks about a group of powerful people (politicians, corporate elite and wealthy) trying to create a global Government or a world superpower. It could be a reference to this theory, or it could be suggesting a new world order will be formed and it depends on what the people do (I’m basing the latter on my interpretation of the performance).

    Ultimately I think it’s up to the audience to interpret the title, so if you get a chance to see it let me know why you think it’s called ‘New World Order’.

  3. erucceeds / Dec 7 2010 12:47 pm

    Good point, though sometimes it’s hard to arrive to definite conclusions

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