Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan’s radical interpretation of George Orwell’s dystopian novel surges the innovative and intelligent theatre company, Headlong, back into the West End.
Their production of 1984 returns for a second spell at the Playhouse Theatre via a nationwide tour which saw over a quarter of a million theatregoers stepping into the Orwellian world of Big Brother and Room 101. I was lucky enough to see 1984 in its first spell in the West End and to say I was blown away would be an understatement.
The play tells the story of Winston Smith who resents the oppressive society within which he lives. To escape the cruelty of the world, Winston starts a diary – a crime which, if caught by the Thought Police, is punishable by death. As Winston writes, his disobedience grows as do his dreams of a rebellion.
The new cast is made up of actors who have all appeared in the show either on tour or in the West End previously, with Matthew Spencer, who played Symons in the original production, playing the lead role of Winston. He is joined by Tim Dutton as O’Brien, Janine Harouni as Julia (until the 25th of July, when she is replaced by Hara Yannas) and Stephen Fewell as Charrington.
Chloe Lamford’s set turned the dystopian world into a reality and Tim Reid’s use of video was inventive and expositional of the narrative. Tom Gibbons created a superb soundscape running throughout the piece which arguably led to his more recent responsibilities with the Young Vic’s A View from the Bridge, and the Almeida’s Mr Burns. The extraordinary effort from the creative team culminated in a nomination for Best New Play at the 2014 Olivier Awards in a year which saw Chimerica – another Headlong production – storm home with 5 awards.
Icke and Macmillan, co-adaptors and directors, present a sublime and succinct version of Orwell’s famous novel, reminding us that amidst Edward Snowden’s leaks and the ever increasing surveillance in our everyday lives, Winston’s story remains as relevant as ever.
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