1984, Playhouse Theatre

A beautifully staged adaption of this classic, focusing on the novel’s dystopian atmosphere in a way that leaves you feeling unsettled in the good way.

If you’re a bit of a theatre techie at heart, this is an absolute must-see; the Playhouse Theatre’s ‘1984’ (running until October 25th) brilliantly uses what initially comes across as a fairly basic set to powerfully visualise the nature of ‘Big Brother’. Digital material and film are also used to great effect in creating an atmosphere of control and surveillance, although it is worth keeping in mind when buying tickets that from a seat in ‘the gods’ (like mine, unfortunately!) much of this is obscured.

In terms of the play itself, I’d definitely advise reading (or even re-reading) George Orwell’s novel beforehand – I’ve only read it once, quite a few years ago, and did find myself a bit lost in parts. This was especially true near the beginning, where ‘flashbacks’ between the study-group reading Winston Smith’s diary and the events themselves are the most frequent. That being said, it is this set-up that encourages the audience to question what they are seeing and its relevance to modern life, and therefore gives such poignancy to the play’s ending.

If you’re a fan of 1984, or the dystopian genre in general, I would recommend this production. It may take some time to get into, but it is worth it if you’re willing to wait a little for everything to click. However, if you’re looking for something light-hearted or easy to watch, this isn’t the play for you.

As practical side-notes – strobe lighting effects and loud noises were used throughout, the play runs straight through for 1hr 40mins with no interval, and there are scenes definitely inappropriate for the squeamish (although implied rather than explicitly shown).

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