Saturday, 12 September 2015

"1984" by George Orwell
Nottingham Playhouse.

Orwell's classic book telling the story of Winston Smith and he rebellion against the monstrous world in which he lives in. A world that is controlled by "Big Brother" who dictates what he does, says and even thinks. This does not stop him though from keeping a diary which is also monitored by the thought police and eventually cleared from existence and from Winston's memory in a violent and bloody way.

This production is almost the same as the production we first saw  previously at the Playhouse and has since toured the West End and is set to travel to Australia and America. I say almost the same as there are a  couple of "tweaks" here and there which only enhance this brilliantly thought provoking but shocking play.

A very talented cast headed by Matthew Spencer who played Winston and Janine Harouni who played Winston's "partner in crime", Julia who in the end betrayed him to the powers that be... or did she? Did he betray her? Very powerful in the messages given here and shows a possibility that by 2050, what Orwell wrote about could, by this date, be what we can expect. After all, with the rise of CCTV keeping us in check, this could be a diluted stepping stone to what could be a frightening future for our children and grandchildren.

I may seem an extremity to think that in the relatively free living society we live in today that some time in the future we may be told what to say, do and think by a minority bureaucratic group, and if we don't follow the rules......

What I particularly loved about this production was the seamless timing between the sound design team, the lighting design and the actors, which can only really be appreciated by seeing the play itself. Split second timing between the three areas combine to create a visual and aural splendour, creating instant and maximum effect, sometimes quite shockingly. Expertise like this closes the gap between film makers and theatre productions when producing visual images and shocks.

There's no visual "horror" in the torture scenes of Winston, but you don't need to see the fingernails being removed or the electric shock treatment because the sound and light design build the intensity and horror and you know what's coming so you see it in your own mind. The scene with the starving rats in the rectangular tube about to be unleashed onto Winston's face is, at least, hair-raising, especially for one like myself who can't stand rodents. Again the imagination and the human mind is shown to be a wonderful thing.

Setting the scene is all important in this production and  with the "double think' sections of the play, you often question what you're seeing, and could you really be seeing inside the mind of Winston, again questioning what you see on stage in the same way that Winston himself is unsure of what he is seeing and hearing.

The ending of the play is set in stark white, in contrast to the busy library scene and the "secret room" scene, which is played out on the upper screen, as well as being revealed at the rear of the library style setting. This blank white canvas lets you concentrate on the full horror of the "mind changing" scenes where the mysterious six white clad, and face hidden workers, calmly and unemotionally convince Winston that what he thinks and feel are not what he should be thinking and feeling.

Possibly not for the squeamish,but most definitely for the lovers of powerful, shocking and great theatre, because that is what you'll get. A show that will make you appreciate where you are in life and question where you think you are, because who knows what may happen in the future!

"1984" is being played out at the Nottingham Playhouse until 26 September 2015 and is part of the Playhouse's Conspiracy Season.

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