A new adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan MacmillanHeadlong, Nottingham Playhouse and Almeida Theatre

 

It is impossible to escape the prophetic nature of 1984, in the light of social media and the internet never has the nature of Big Brother felt so prevalent and terrifying.

The cacophony of this production explodes onto the Theatre Royal Stage; baffling, confusing and alienating the audience with purposeful ease. It is not easy to watch and without question the multi layered use of media and technology only goes to reinforce the world in which we all live and surrounds us.

For those who have never been exposed to this epic novel the premise is simple, in this adaptation it is as expected April, 1984. 13:00. Comrade 6079, Winston Smith, thinks a thought, starts a diary, and falls in love. Here Smith cannot be in love as his life and the lives of those around him are controlled by Big Brother; the ever prevalent, malevolent tribe who torture and kill those who do not conform.

The winner here is the stunning vision, designed by Chloe Lamford, lighting by Natasha Chivers, Sound by Tom Gibbons and Video by Tim Reid. The 8 live cameras in use onstage provide a chilling, invasive insight; the offstage action is filmed live and the chaotic world is dismantled and rebuilt before us.

There are no spoilers here but the torture is suitably graphic and the characters really do appear lost and desperate. It is hard to sympathise with the characters, however Matthew Spencer (Winston Smith) holds the central performance well and his eventual cry for his life is convincing and powerful.

This is strong work runs without an interval and there is a welcome rush of fresh air when we are freed from this claustrophobic and disturbing world.

  

  
**** (4 Stars)

Petra Schofield