1984 is a play based on the 1949 book by George Orwell, telling the story of a political system that controls society. Anyone found to not be believing the information they are fed, is punished and destroyed. It has similar conotations to the Queen inspired musical We Will Rock You, set in a futuristic world where old music has been banned, instruments buried and anyone found to be listening to rock and roll (or anytthing that isn’t synthasised), is arrested.
Matthew Spencer, as Winston, gives a creepy, erratic performance as the man who rebels against what is socially acceptable and fights for what he believes is morally right. Janine Harouni gives a brilliant performance in her professional stage debut as Julia. Her piercing eyes tell the story of a woman scared to be who she really is until she finds solace in Winston and whilst falling in love they also rebel against society with the support of each other. Mandi Symonds gave a great performance as Mrs Parsons. She was the motherly figure that kept the others in their place.
The problem with 1984 is that is doesn’t translate well onto the stage. It is so complex, so intense, that even now I’m not quite sure I understand exactly what was happening. Using terms like ‘Newspeak’ for modern day language, ‘Oldspeak’ for old language, ‘Big Brother’ for the people in charge and ‘Thoughtcrime’ for people who go against the rules and dare to have other beliefs, makes this gobbledygook language hard to follow when it is already mixed in with a story which jolts throughout time.
The use of lighting and video projection is well done in this show and gives a more modern feel, showing how different types of media can be used within theatre these days and creatives aren’t confined to just using the actors on the stage. The show has an eerie horror feeling and when the lights suddenly go out, the audience brace themselves for what they are going to see next. With scenes of tortue in this production it certainly isn’t a fun night out but is a very well put together show.
1984 was brilliant, yet with the confusing and hard to follow story left me wondering exactly what I had just experienced.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Alastair Muir
1984 is playing at the Playhouse Theatre until 5 September 2015. Click here for tickets