Where are you now, Winston?
An audience of a certain age will have been introduced to 1984 by the way of a forced Year 10 curriculum reading – not the most inspiring start, and definitely ironic given the themes of a story about dissent and questioning a system. For me, 1984 was a novel that made you consider the Powers That Be, contemplate dystopia as a far off concept, and get an A- on your essay about it.
Over a decade later, sitting in the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne (irony, once more) Dystopia was made front and centre. Produced by UK theatrical innovators Headlong along with Nottingham Playhouse and the Almeida Theatre, this retelling of the story of Winston Smith does not for one moment let the audience catch a breath, and fully captures the sense of unease that George Orwell attempts to express, as we watch Winston fight, struggle and question everything – including his own sanity.
While the use of set and props was fantastic, the experience, in my opinion, has to be completely given over to the brilliant use of soundscaping thanks to Tom Gibbons. Static and white noise permeate each scene, so much so that by the climax of the show nerves are frayed and the audience giggled with me, nervous and on edge, reminding ourselves fervently it is just theatre – perhaps in 2017, the concept of Big Brother is not as far away as it once was.
A jarring cast flit between roles, moods and scenes effortlessly creating 100 minutes of disconcerting love, pressure and honesty. Released after a gruelling final twenty minutes, my companion and I walk around an eerily quiet Melbourne, and I realise 1984 has done to me what few theatre shows manage – I’ve been completely spooked, and loved every minute of it.
In its final week, 1984 is not to be missed. Catch a closing show this long weekend, currently on at the Comedy theatre.
Find tickets here