1984. It’s one of those novels that everyone seems to have an opinion about. George Orwell’s well-known dystopian hall-mark of literature, ‘1984’ has recently been re-created as a stage production for an Australian tour during a time where some might say we need it most. Directed and adapted for the stage by UK playwrights Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan, the entire team aims to bring “a literary masterpiece to sheer theatrical ambition”. By their 50th show, there were 400 fake teeth, 100 ladles of tinned soup, 12 and a half litres of coffee and 25 litres of ‘wine’ used, among a myriad of stage magic and hard work to bring this fast-selling production to life. It’s this dedication and the dynamic qualities of theatre that brings home why theatre is important for a modern audience.
Recently, I spoke with Paul Blackwell, long time Australian actor with more than 40 years experience in the world of radio, film and theatre. Performing the role of Parsons in the adaptation of ‘1984’, Paul tells me the one thing that makes this production incredibly enjoyable is without a doubt the cast and crew involved. “It helps when you’re on a lengthy tour run,” he said. In one of the advertisements for the production, I came across a phrase that caught my attention; “to understand 2017, you have to see 1984”. While an interesting statement to me, according to Paul, this was just nothing more than “publicity hype”. Intrigued and admittedly somewhat taken aback by this, I wanted to find out what he meant.
“It’s more the way Orwell saw the world at his time,” Paul stated. Detailing the influence of Stalin, the Communist Party, and the socialist political climate of the time, Paul concluded that with the adaptation of the play, it was more an insight into the thoughts and feelings of Orwell and the betrayal he felt by political institutions.
With this in mind, it made my next question an interesting one. I always want to know why people are attracted to theatre and why it’s important for them. More specifically, I wanted to know why it was important to see 1984, if not to “understand” 2017.
“Theatre will never die out… and it won’t work without an audience” said Paul. “There’s something about that contract between performer and audience that nothing else can match”. I tend to agree, there’s something about the dynamic nature and spontaneity about live theatre that is unique to the performance style.
Whether you want to understand the time you live in now or want an insight into the past, you should find an excuse to go see 1984. 1984 is showing at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth from the 4th until the 13th of August. For more information on the show’s tour and to book tickets, visit the 1984 website.