George Orwell’s 1984 was compulsory reading for many of us during our school years and while we passed ‘that’ year with nary a thought of what Orwell saw in the future we were brought ‘back to his future’ comprehensively with the Headlong Nottingham Playhouse and Almeida production and Australian co-director Corey McMahon at the Canberra Theatre.
Many of the opening night audience for this production were familiar with this dystopian novel of a world unimaginable when written in 1948, and happy to say it is still their favourite novel.
It’s been studied, reviewed and dissected to the nth degree. That it has come back to the stage in a formidable new production warranted a different perspective in the world of 2017, where the Orwellian concepts for 1984 have a familiar ring in a life of devices and screens that rule, of weapons and wars, decimation in the Middle East and governments able to access so much of our lives. But we’ve coped.
Winston Smith is younger than my remembrance of things past, but he’s still slogging away in the Ministry of Truth, revising history. Not happy, but he finds a love interest, Julia, and together some happiness in a love nest in a back room. In this totalitarian society of course you can’t trust anyone and they’re dobbed in to the Ministry of Love.
And that is where this production creates a very scary sequence of events to turn you’re evening revisiting 1984 into a gut wrenching display with sound and lighting effects and a coterie of Star Wars inspired Ministry of Love workers doing their best torture. And our Winston and Julia betray each other.
Big Brother might have been watching us over the intervening years but his impact is diminished by time and experience. But a return visit to this social science fiction in an excellent production was great theatre.