‘Individualism is dead.’ The haunting and powerful words of Orwell are brought to the Playhouse Theatre in London and what a performance.
Adapted and directed by: Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan
Starring: Simon Coates, Tim Dutton, Stephen Fewell, Janine Harouni, Christopher Patrick Nolan, Ben Porter, Matthew Spencer, Mandi Symonds & Verity Firth, Harriet Turnbull, Jemima Wright
Location: The Playhouse Theatre, London
Running until: September 5th, 2015
Whilst sitting in my seat before the production started, the other audience members were murmuring to each other about the upcoming play. The mumblings began to quiet down as more and more people began to realise that there was some unnerving clink-clank sounds that subtlety started. This was a first hint that we were about to watch a serious production.
As an Orwellian, I was sceptical at first with the concept of this infamous novel that had been turned into a play, but I was pleasantly surprised. The sheer quality of the whole production from the brilliant performances through to the lighting and stage direction reinforced the notions featured in Orwell’s original text. The book itself is a powerful text and for those who haven’t read it, it gives an unnerving feel and makes you look at the world around you more closely, even today.
This production did not fail to up hold to these feelings and left a lasting thought in the mind of the audience.
The play (and novel) follows Winston Smith who thinks a thought, starts a diary, and falls in love. Big Brother is watching him, however, and the door to Room 101 can open at any time. The ideas that we are being constantly watched by an undefeatable force is reinforced through the stage directions. There are parts of the production that follow Winston and Julia in an external room but through the use of filming techniques it emphasises the idea that Big Brother are constantly watching people without them knowing.
Adapted and directed by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, it is clear that a lot of time and effort has gone into creating a dystopian world. The frequent use of strobe lighting reinforced the mind of Winston and the whole theatre, including the fire exit signs, were cut with power leaving only the blinding bright lights. This gave the actors a split second longer to get to their positions on stage whilst the vision of the audience was blurred.
This technique is a truly extraordinary one and as previously stated, emphasised the mind of the Winston.
What else stood out? The whole production is cleverly fixed together with the repetition of scenes, events and dialogue, but with different parts and characters missing.
Matthew Spencer, who played the lead role of Winston Smith, brought to life the role of someone struggling to understand his own mind. His final words ‘Thank you’ are haunting and that final scene will be a vivid image in the audience’s mind for days after.
The rest of cast including the role of Julia (Janine Harouni) and O’Brien (Tim Dutton) all added more to the production through their use of actions, which almost had a sort of rhythmic dance to it.
The child actors should also be mentioned. Despite only having minor roles and a few lines of dialogue, they successfully created an uneasy atmosphere and their ghostly rendition of Oranges and Lemons is exceptionally spooky and uneasy.
You do not need to be an avid reader of Orwell to fully appreciate and understand the themes and elements that make up the narrative of the production and to make it even more audience friendly, the programme has a definition of the words and phrases used throughout including Newspeak, Facecrime and Goodthinker.
If you do enjoy a story that makes you think and leaves a lasting thought in your head, then 1984 is one to see.
1984 is running at The Playhouse Theatre in London until September 5t, 2015 – you can book your tickets here.