Originally seen at The Playhouse Theatre in London, 19 August 2015.
Showing in Melbourne as part of the Melbourne Festival
16 October to 25 October 2015
Walking out of the Playhouse theatre in London, I thought to myself, “This has got to be the best play I have ever seen.” This is provocative, unsettling theatre at its best. Not only does it faithfully represent the core work of Orwell’s novel masterpiece and explanatory addendums, it does so while delivering a fresh interpretation for a contemporary audience.
The idea of an Orwellian society is so often incorrectly associated with pure authoritarianism that it can be ironically easy to forget what he truly meant. An Orwellian world is one in which language and individual perception is so effectively distorted that we can no longer tell the difference to the extent that it controls us. Indeed, the production’s ability to distort the concept of time and reality is one of its greatest feats. It successfully challenges the simple notions of individual identity that we take for granted. War is peace. Scenes play out like bouts of déjà vu, designed to disorient and confuse. Freedom is slavery. Aural cues bellow at crucial moments. Ignorance is strength. Intense lighting and complete darkness deliver an overwhelming onslaught to the senses. It engulfs you with a graphic claustrophobia, stealing the breath from under your nose. It blurs the line brilliantly between fact and fiction, between reality and reproduction. In the end, two and two make five, and you feel relieved by the truth of it all.
1984 begins its limited run again in Melbourne, and you can bet that I’m sadistic enough to have secured another ticket – this time front and centre to all of the action. Do yourself a favour and find yourself a seat, whatever it takes.
For more information, check out the Melbourne Festival website.
Cover image by Frankey Chung