By George Orwell
Adapted by Robert Icke and Duncan McMillan
Presented by Headlong and Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company
29th October - 2nd November 2013
This stage adaptation of '1984 - a multi-media presentation which makes
for engrossing viewing - concentrates on George Orwell's significant appendix
to the book, titled 'The Principles Of Newspeak'.
Within this version there is a constant blurring between past, present
and future, which gives the production a dream-like, surreal quality.
Big Brother is ever-present and ever watchful in a society where love
is taboo, history does not exist and the truth of language forever distorted.
When the new lovers Winston (Mark Arends) and Julia (Hara Yannas) think
they are safe from his prying eyes, the audience is spying on them, looking
at a giant screen, like looking through a massive keyhole of their bedroom.
We, the audience, become the Thought Police - we become part of Big Brother.
The children's nursery rhyme 'Oranges And Lemons' is recited at regular
intervals, as a symbol of what people can still remember, despite the
past not existing.
This adds to the presence of a Groundhog Day-like feel, where similar
dialogue is spoken and the actions of the characters on stage are repeated
a number of times. Perhaps a pointer to how many people go through the
same rituals and procedures day after day. Get up, go to work (if they
are lucky to have a job), go home, watch lots of TV and then retire to
The scenes of torture inflicted upon Winston by the Thought Police in
Room 101, to stop him becoming 'A minority of one', are graphic. It immediately
conjures up images of Guantanamo Bay, and the savage cruelty inflicted
on prisoners by the guardians of The Land of The Free, Home Of The Brave.
1984 is even more topical and relevant than when it was written by Orwell
in 1948, given the recent revelations of the mass surveillance around
the world by GCHQ and NSA, not to mention the totalitarian states that
still flourish and ply their despotic trade.
One wonders if Orwell envisaged the extent to how paranoid, all seeing
and hearing, and subversive society would actually become. Things ain't
going to get better!