by George Orwell adapted by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan.
Playhouse Theatre Northumberland Avenue WC2N 5DE To 5 September
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7631.
then Nottingham Playhouse Wellington Circus NG1 5AF 9-26 September 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm except 11 Sept 7pm Mat 17, 24 Sept 1.30pm; 19 Sept 2.30pm.
Audio-described 19 Sept 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1.30pm), 23 Sept (+ Touch Tour 6.45pm).
BSL Signed 25 Sept.
Captioned 24 Sept 7.45pm.
TICKETS: 0115 941 9419.
Runs 1hr 50min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 June.
Adaptation vividly shows 1984 has come but not gone.
So successful has this joint adaptation of George Orwell’s novel been that it’s settling in for a West End run despite the absence of that supposed necessity, the star actor – ‘star’ referring to fame not quality, of which there’s plenty in all aspects of this production, which has now been around for two years, and which will return to its birthplace, Nottingham Playhouse (and other dates in several countries), after this Thames-side run.
It’s vital there shouldn’t be a star in this show, for its central character, Winston Smith was born to be ordinary – a Smith – despite his parents naming him with hopeful heroics after the wartime leader in the public mind when the novel appeared (almost a decade before, in Liverpool, Mr and Mrs Lennon had also used Churchill for their son John’s middle name).
Winston Smith has to be perplexed, and Matthew Spencer captures that. As he does puzzlement over his identity – like someone with amnesia he doesn’t know where he is or when it is, let alone who he is. Yet this gives him an identity. His opposite is Parsons, a well-adjusted citizen proud his daughter turns her child’s imaginative curiosity into state-snooping, a pride maintained even when it’s turned on him.
The audience, too, is disorientated from the start when a book group discusses what we assume to be Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. But it may not be; while the conditions under which the discussion takes place are questioned by the end.
If there is a discussion – its members keep disappearing and reappearing; are they Winston’s projections? Tim Reid’s video projections over the stage add a firm sense of observation, CCTV writ large and clearly-defined.
This 1984 is frighteningly contemporary in its sense of freedoms removed in the name of security, of history re-written by the state. Gagging law and orders, injunctions, secret courts and propaganda are taking us there, and MPs could benefit from a stroll along the Embankment to see this show.
Where only the physical violence seems fake. There’s blood, and it remains on the floor. But it’s the mental disorientation that truly shocks.
O’Brien: Tim Dutton.
Charrington: Stephen Fewell.
Julia: Janine Harouni.
Martin: Christopher Patrick Nolan.
Syme: Ben Porter.
Winston: Matthew Spencer.
Parsons: Gavin Spokess.
Mrs Parsons: Mandi Symonds.
Child: Verity Firth/Harriet Turnbull/Jemima Wright.
Directors: Robert Icke, Duncan Macmillan.
Designer: Chloe Lamford.
Lighting: Natasha Chivers.
Sound: Tom Gibbons.
Video: Tim Reid.
Associate director: Daniel Riggett.
Associate designer: Emma Bailey.
Associate lighting: Zoe Spurr.
Associate sound: Peter Malkin.
Associate video: Ian Valkeith.
Assistant director: Chloë Wicks.
A production by The Headlong, Nottingham Playhouse and Almeida Theatre.