The stage is dimly lit, a figure quakes alone in the shadows of his own four walls. A theatre packed with faces glare at the man in the spotlight, subdued and willing for the story to unravel.
Winston Smith- Comrade 6079. His fragile hand cradles the pen above a bleak open page. His inner conscience screaming, warning him of the consequence: death… or worse. He begins to write.
It’s 1984 and an enigmatic power has taken a tight grip of the future, very different to Earth as we know it. The original novel, written by George Orwell, set out to critique the danger of technology and the power which it could hold over the human race. Now we see Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan capturing this story in a whole new darkness on the stage, more brilliantly than
One of the most chilling elements of the productions itself is the sound used to recreate the dystopian world which George Orwell once depicted amongst the pages of a book. Initially, there is very little sound, causing an eerie silence to fill the theatre. That silence grows as the audiences’ attention is encapsulated by the plot as the oppressed life of Winston Smith is delicately revealed. Repetition of the characters confusion-driven scenarios has an effect of disillusionment, all those watching becoming paralysed as if they were part of the oppressive regime described within.
A modernistic approach was successfully carried out by the producers, ending and beginning cyclically with a discussion of the diary by people of the future, a book dangerously narrated by Winston Smith through-out the play. The incorporation of this technique grants crucial insight to the viewers about how such an account could have been written. Possibly abstract fiction? Or maybe it was the last words penned by a man drowned by desperation.
The play also captures the destructive relationship between Smith and the women he lusts for, the woman with whom he is arguably in love with. Julia- a fanatical member of the Anti-Sex league. Her eye for rebellion catches those of the protagonist, their relationship feeding on hatred for the force above them: Big Brother.
Whilst captivating the audience in this stunning production, Icke and Macmillan also deconstruct the core themes of the novel, displaying them fantastically for all to see and comprehend. Not only do they bring the story itself to life, they also bring to surface vital questions which Orwell’s tale was crafted in pursuit of answering. Spirituality, the meaning of loyalty and love and devotion. Just a few of the many ideas torn to shreds by this intense performance. What we consider to be important in life becomes subverted and everything ultimately interrogated, much like the characters in the story.
Debatably the best part of the play is when Winston is deployed to Room 101, a division of the Ministry of Love.
Ironically named, this area of governmental control issues the cruellest kinds of psychological torture in order to attain confessional intelligence. The stage presentation of this scene is truly phenomenal. Scorching lights flood the stage and sounds of literal pain fill the ears of everyone in the room, the audience included. The whole theatre is engulfed by the moment, a microcosm secluding everyone within from life outside the production. The realism is hard to put into words, producers are due many commendations for this aspect of such a thrilling show.
It is clear that this show was not just any old theatre play. The performance of every character was almost effortless despite the extraordinary scrutiny under which they were placed by being inhabitants of such a world.
When you are asked to describe a show in one word after you have just observed it, it is sometimes easy to come up with an initial response. This show leaves its viewers feeling every emotion tangible to mankind.