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1984 (Bristol & tour)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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1984 is George Orwell’s harrowing and frightening tale of how he saw the future developing. Published in 1949, 1984 is set in a world beyond our imagining - a world where totalitarianism really is total. All power is split into three roughly equal groups--Eastasia, Eurasia, and Oceania. The story is set in Oceania, which includes the United Kingdom, and the action happens in an area equating to London, but known as Airstrip One.

Winston Smith, played by Nick Haverson is a middle-aged character who is a mere underling of the ruling oligarchy – “the Party”. The Party has taken totalitarianism to new depths, with each person subjected to 24 hour surveillance and where people's very thoughts are controlled. The figurehead of the system is the omnipresent and omnipotent Big Brother. Winston however believes there is another way.

1984 joins Winston as he sets about another day, where his job is to change history by changing old newspaper records to match with the new truth as decided by the Party. “He who controls the past, controls the future" is the Party slogan to live by and it gives Winston his job, but Winston cannot see it like that. Barely old enough to recall a time when things were different, he sets out to expose the Party for the cynically fraudulent organisation that it is. He is joined by Julia played by Kate Ambler, a beautiful young woman who is equally sickened by the excesses of the Party. The story unfolds to show us the terrible fate that awaits those who try to think independently or make their own minds up about anything.

The play, adapted by Nick Lane, is produced by Northern Broadside/Dukes Theatre Lancaster in association with the Stroud Theatre Company, directed by Conrad Nelson, and is an excellent production. Everything gels perfectlt and all credit should go to the cast and crew for making it a slick and professional production. The set, designed by Sue Condie, is outstanding –unobtrusively changing to provide the right background for each scene, with excellent use of both lighting and video projection –subtly blending to fit the scene enabling , for example, the audience to be lead into “Room 101” with shock and horror.

The actors are totally believable – sometime menacing and sometime vulnerable but the attention is gripped the whole time, as the tension built to the terrible climax of the play.

Disturbing, but frighteningly relevant to today’s society - we really do have to be careful that Big Brother isn’t watching us all the time! Be prepared to find yourself questioning a good deal of our current society when the curtain comes down – I certainly am!


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