There are very few who are unfamiliar with 1984, a dystopian novel and a classic example of cult political fiction by George Orwell. Written in 1949 and depicting the imagined futuristic world in the year 1984 where someone is always watching your every move. The rules are set by the omnipresent ‘big brother’ and there is policing on thought, movement and speech.

This work by Orwell is more poignant now than ever with parallels drawn with the current political trends of totalitarianism, mass government surveillance and a general acceptance of alternate facts. Orwell’s invented language Newspeak gives us a satirical and sometimes hilarious depiction of the hypocrisy of the propaganda and censorship that exists in this futuristic world.

New Theatre’s musical adaptation of the novel for stage is refreshing, the writing and lyrics are clever and the musical score wonderfully retro. A special kudos to the first time brilliant director Georgia Vella who brought all the elements together in a quirky but well thought out direction and production design.

The play follows the storyline of the novel where the protagonist Winston Smith, a ‘party’ member who is a dreamer and a rebel and writes his forbidden thoughts in his diary. Winston is in love with a fellow team member Julia which ultimately becomes his downfall as they embark on their torrid love affair. The Ministry of Love finds out about the relationship and Winston is captured and tortured until he has been ‘re-educated’.

The highlight of the play is the top notch ensemble cast, in particular Charlie Hollands as Winston, Jordan Barnes as Mr Parsons and the wonderfully sarcastic and sly Joshua Macqueen as O’Brien. Another highlight was the burlesquish choreographed piece of the two ‘rats’ in the jail cells performed by Alex Gonzalez and Jessica Loeb. The overall look of the production design was monochrome and utilitarian from the costumes to the set design, functional and sparse to depict the drabness of life under the superstate Oceania. There was a clever use of the three blocks of stairs used in different configurations in the first half and as clinical looking jail cells in the second and the projection of the ever present big brother ‘eye’ on the white background.

This play is a clever spin and a must watch for those who grew up reading and loving 1984 in their school syllabus and a chance to dwell in the fantastical futuristic world of George Orwell once again.

1984 THE MUSICAL by Tom Davidson McLeod & Diana Reid Directed by: Georgia Vella and Tom Davidson McLeod  Composer: Riley McCullagh
Photo © 1984 The Musical Production

by Arwen

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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