By George Orwell
Adapted by Robert Icke and Duncan McMillan
Presented by Headlong and Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company
Liverpool Playhouse
29th October - 2nd November 2013

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

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 bed.

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!

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