by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan based on George Orwell’s novel.
Almeida Theatre Almeida Street Islington N1 1TA To 29 March 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 22 March 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 12.45pm).
Captioned 27 Feb, 19 March 2.30pm.
Runs: 1hr 50min No interval.
TICKETS 020 7359 4404 (24 hours).
Review: Carole Woddis 13 February.
As if timed to perfection, George Orwell’s profound warning against state control has stolen back into our consciousness just when surveillance is reaching a peak. Thanks to Edward Snowden, the NSA, GCHQ, Google and Facebook, issues of personal privacy have become burning subjects of debate.
After a triumphant tour, Nottingham Playhouse and Headlong’s production has reached the Almeida. It’s a shattering experience.
The third co-production between Headlong and the Almeida (Chimerica and American Psycho being the previous two), David Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s version – part adaptation, part analytical reframing – speaks on so many levels it should be seen the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland.
Chloe Lamford’s design develops from the brown mundanity of a claustrophobic college study room to the bare grey-walled brutality of a torture chamber. In between, Orwell’s hero, Winston Smith with his stolen love, Julia, are seen via video-cam in a chintzy paradise of a bedroom they think is free from surveillance.
But nothing in Winston’s world is unmonitored. With extraordinary vision, Orwell foresaw the stranglehold modern technology would come to exert over human lives and its effect on our sense of identity, reality, history and language. Think text and twitter and you realise how prescient was his apprehension of loss of language.
Orwell’s Oceania has become our reality and, as in 1998 American movie Enemy of the State an individual’s life is destroyed by a malevolent, over-scrutinising NSA, so Winston’s gallant act of rebellion against the `thought police’ is overseen at every point.
Orwell’s pessimism that equality and individual freedom were doomed is not much moderated in Icke and Macmillan’s production. In a crucifying climax of electrically-charged torture and attempts to extinguish both the past and Winston’s own sense of reality and truth, Mark Arends’ passionate idealist Winston is seen looking up with almost puppy-like appreciation at his torturer, Tim Dutton’s bespectacled bureaucratic nemesis, O’Brien.
With their ensemble chillingly capturing the novel’s sense of `normality’ and robotic unreality, Icke and Macmillan have done Orwell proud. In so doing they partly repudiate his thesis. Freedom of expression – and thought – still lives.
Winston: Mark Arends.
O’Brien: Tim Dutton.
Charrington: Stephen Fewell.
Martin: Christopher Patrick Nolan.
Syme: Matthew Spencer.
Parsons: Gavin Spokes.
Mrs Parsons: Mandi Symonds.
Julia: Hara Yannas.
Child: Asha Banks/Sylvie Gillard.
Goldstein: Richard Bremmer.
Thought Criminal: Joshua Higgott.
Directors: Robert Icke, Duncan Macmillan.
Designer/Costume: Chloe Lamford.
Lighting: Natasha Chivers.
Sound: Tom Gibbons.
Video: Tim Reid.
Associate director: Daniel Raggett.
Associate sound: Peter Malkin.
This production of 1984 was originally produced by Headlong and Nottingham Playhouse and had its world premiere at Nottingham Playhouse in September, before touring the UK during autumn 2013.