by George Orwell adapted by Blind Summit Theatre.
BAC (Counsel Chamber) Lavender Hill SW11 5TN To 9 January 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 7, 9 Jan 2.30pm.
no performance 24 Dec-3 Jan.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7223 2223.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 December.
Continuously inventive depiction of relentless political control..
Apt, or ironic, to see George Orwell’s totalitarian state created in a room once the home of Battersea democracy. And to find this tale of outsiders crushed by the state at Christmas, a time of forced travel to pay taxes, temporary accommodation and slaughter of young children.
Whether Orwell had father or auntie in mind – Stalin, ‘father’ of the Soviet Union has to be front-runner, but the BBC’s also been nominated as inspiring the regime that watches over everyone through tele-screens – his 1948 view of 1984 remains disturbing in 2009-going-on-10.
The lorry-load of grey-garbed performers who enact the story of Thought Criminal Winston Smith and Whore Julia Birch, seem like a Soviet agitprop group. But the spread of mass conformity through advertising and media they display indicates how many of the old ends are nowadays achieved without the open torture Big Brother used.
As ‘Private Eye’ delights in telling us, newspapers can change their story within a single issue. Truth becomes notional and unimportant – it doesn’t even matter whether Big Brother actually exists. So, it’s no surprise Blind Summit’s account, continuingly witty if only momentarily laugh-aloud funny, should carry a terrible fascination as its exhilarating theatricality exposes Orwell’s bleak vision.
Individuals inevitably give way, as Big Brother’s scowling features finally unscroll behind them. As for puppets (Blind Summit’s central identity) the most prominent is comical yet malevolent as he leaps around. And the décor’s mainly cardboard, creating a colourless 2D world.
As Julia and Winston meet in their secret retreat, the others are crowded around, Robin Beer’s tall figure peering through a small cardboard window. Beer’s intrusive Syme, like Josie Daxter’s true-believer Parsons – almost seeming a puppet herself, with eyes and features screwed tight – contrast Simon Scardifield’s naively innocent Winston and Julia Innocenti’s passionate Julia, with their three-dimensional existences.
Mark Down’s production is never more speedily funny than when using hand-held signs to illustrate Orwell’s disquisition on how truth becomes the first casualty of dictators. Here, as in the more overt action, Blind Summit’s skill lies in the rapid dexterity with which they describe a society forced into stagnant repression.
Katherine: Alice Barclay.
Syme: Robin Beer.
O’Brien: Gergo Danka.
Parsons: Josie Daxter.
Julia: Julia Innocenti.
Charrington: Henry Maynard.
Winston: Simon Scardifield.
Director: Mark Down.
Designer: Nick Barnes.
Lighting: Chahine Yavroyan.
Sound/Music: Chris Branch.
Costume: Dulcie Best.