Has there ever been a more provident novel than George Orwell’s 1984?! Orwell’s portrayal of how he envisaged society going has proved endlessly prophetic, though hardly in ways that he could have seen. Individual privacy has pretty much been obliterated with the internet and the pressure on young people to conform to an increasingly materialistic society keeps on multiplying.
This brilliant Orwell work cries out for a good staging which Headlong has certainly achieved with their landmark production which premiered at the Nottingham Playhouse in 2013. Sydney theatre lovers are now making the most of their opportunity to see this British production, which opened at the Roslyn Packer Theatre last night, already being declared a sell out.
Those who have been fortunate enough to procured themselves tickets are in for a treat. The great thing is that this treat has been served up by a very talented all Australian cast.
Tom Conroy is excellent as the protagonist Winston Smith, a bureaucrat working for the state organisation, the Ministry for Truth, who sees that the State is increasingly infringing on individual rights and liberties, and sets out to oppose it. The play opens as Winston commences writing a diary where he shares his ‘revolutionary’ thoughts. He knows only too well that if his diary is found he will be locked up the authorities.
Winston finds a political ally with his friendship with Julia, who maintains the novel writing machinery within the same Ministry. Together, as well as becoming lovers, they strive to conduct subversive activities, however, fatefully, inevitably they are spied on and captured.
The ultra conservative, spiteful O’Brien is the man responsible for their capture and Terrence Crawford gives a very strong performance in this role playing a truly malevolent, malicious character.
Paul Blackwell, Renata Musolino, Guy O’Grady, Yalin Ozucelik, Fiona Press and Molly Barwick each make valuable contributions in the other roles.
This production of-course adheres to the show’s original, first rate production design. Chloe Lamford’s staging is strong; there is the main ‘office’ stage area, then there is a bit of a frosted glass partition with a door behind which there is a walkway for actors to use and then enter the main stage area. Most significantly, above the main set there is a large, wide screen that runs the whole length of the stage and is used to great dramatic effect allowing for action being played out elsewhere to be seen, as well as displaying some potent images. Towards the end there is a something of a coup de theatre when the set in its entirety is ‘unveiled’.
Natasha Chivers stark lighting design and Tom Gibbons edgy soundscape both added to this Sturm and Drang experience.
Those famous lines near the show’s end had a strong echo- ‘If you want a picture of the future- imagine a boot stamping on a human head- forever’.
When I heard those words reverberate through the theatre I thought of those homeless people who had been camping out in their little shanty town at Martin Place near Macquarie Street who had received their ‘move on’ order from Sydney City Council. They sure received a kick in the guts, a boot to the head.
Highly recommended, George Orwell’s 1984, stage adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, opened at the Roslyn Packer Theatre on the 29th June and is playing until the 22nd July.