1984: Reimagined On Stage

1984 may be many things but it is not a love story. There is no happy ending. It may feature love, hope, and rebellion but it is not a tale that leaves you satisfied and warm-hearted. 1984 is not enjoyable, at least in the sense of ‘joy’. 1984, however, is a harsh reminder of what happens when political control gets out of hand. It may have been a work of fiction originally written by George Orwell but it has since been compared to recent times of tyranny.

1984 features Winston’s (Tom Conroy) progression into “thought crime” and his realisation that the world merely isn’t right. His relationship with Julia (Ursula Mills) is an act of rebellion. Their secret meetings and joining of the “brotherhood” is another tally against them. They have become “thought criminals”; they became “the dead”. 

Approaching this show, I was curious to see how they would portray the psychological deterioration of Winton and his journey from realising the truth to being broken. I must admit that the show perfectly captured this, and emphasised the repetitive daily routines of Winston’s comrades. In fact, it was exceptionally clever. My favourite part was the ‘secret room’ which was off stage but the audience were shown through cameras. This perhaps was foreshadowing for any of the audience who hadn’t read the book; realising that if we could see them, so could the “thought police”.  

When the cameras were revealed and Winston and Julia were captured, the staging was swiftly deconstructed to reveal the hidden room and then the setting changes to the empty cells of imprisonment. This move was both functionally and atmospherically magnificent. Not only did it remove the need for an intermission to change the set, it added this feeling of fear and uncertainty in the audience. With the added sound effects and lights and with the telescreen repeating “you are the dead”, this part of the show was frightening yet captivating. 

 

I must heed a warning to viewers that this show does contain portrayals of torture and execution, and also features sound and light warnings. I remember from the books that the telescreens were said to have a distinct buzzing sound which was added to scenes where there were telescreens in the room. The intensity of the sound grew at points and at times were quite unbearable but it added to the severe atmosphere. The simultaneous light flashes and bangs created shock and emphasised the psychological flashes Winston was experiencing. 

Overall I must admit that although this show was captivating and the cast incredibly talented, 1984 is terrifying. 1984 will make you question your reality. 1984 will force you to consider how much control the government really has, and to what lengths you would go to prevent yourself from being tortured. 1984 succeeded in portraying the classic novel on stage and is a must see show, for those who can stomach its contents. 

On the night I saw the show, during a rather intense scene with light and sound effects, one audience viewer did collapse and was treated by paramedics. I send my best wishes to this man and hope he is doing well. 

 

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About Tara Sidebottom

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Living life under a rock; exploring the worlds of fiction on page, screen and stage. Unintentional foodie and Instagram addict @tara_michelleanne