Wednesday, July 26, 2017

1984



Adapted and directed by Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan from the novel by George Orwell
GWB Entertainment, Ambassador Theatre Group Asia Pacific & State Theatre Company South Australia in Association with QPAC, Sydney Theatre Company, Canberra Theatre Centre & Perth Theatre Trust present the Nottingham Playhouse & Almeida Theatre Production
Canberra Theatre until 29 July

Reviewed by Len Power 25 July 2017

Even if you’ve never read George Orwell’s 1949 novel, ‘1984’, you know what it’s about and you’d certainly know the expression, ‘Big Brother is Watching You’.  Orwell didn’t live to see the current concerns we have with privacy, social media, false news and present day terrorism but he wouldn’t have been surprised.

The problem with dramatizing the book is that it’s set in a deliberately bleak and dreary world.  The movie of it made in the year 1984 with Richard Burton and John Hurt was well done but it was a struggle to sit through.  At the time, U.S. reviewer Vincent Canby said the film was "admirable, bleakly beautiful", though "not an easy film to watch."

This new adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan takes advantage of the multimedia now available to produce a stunning production that will hold your attention for the whole 100 minute playing time.  Like the best roller coaster, it’s not a comfortable ride but it’s a memorable one.

The setting designed by Chloe Lamford is deceptively simple and conventional at the start of the show but watching the way that set changes as the play progresses is amazing.  Video, designed by Tim Reid, is used in long sequences to show scenes happening in another area offstage.  Is it pre-recorded or happening live?  It’s up to you to decide.

Lighting design by Natasha Chivers and sound design by Tom Gibbons are especially important to the atmosphere in this production.  Both elements are superb and the sound effects are extraordinary and VERY LOUD!!  I wonder if the Noise Police are watching you, Tom…

Performances by the ensemble cast are excellent.  In the most prominent roles, Tom Conroy gives a very human and appealing performance as the central character, Winston.  Ursula Mills is confident, almost aggressive and very real as his forbidden lover, Julia, and Terence Crawford is chilling as the interrogator, O’Brien.

This is a highly satisfying, imaginative production with exciting use of multimedia and great performances.  It’s a show you’ll remember for a long time.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s ‘Artcetera’ program (9.00am Saturdays) and on other selected Artsound programs.

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