1984's Nightmare Vision Arrives on London Stage

News   1984's Nightmare Vision Arrives on London Stage
The Lyric Hammersmith is hosting Northern Stage's theatre version of George Orwell's chilling novel, 1984, which opened Feb. 5.

Adapted by Alan Lyddiard and directed by Lyddiard and Mark Murphy, this stage version has been described by The Scotsman as "mind blowing" — an appropriate term of praise given that 1984 describes the brainwashing of both an individual and a society. Orwell's harrowing vision of society controlled through Newspeak, Doublethink and the ever-present, all-seeing Stalinist figure of Big Brother is given a twenty-first century make-over with a mix of visual theatre, music and large-scale projection filmed in Moscow.

Orwell's novel was set in a futuristic London — it was published in the late 1940's, and the plot presupposes a revolution in England in the 1960's. Despite this, it was actually an attack on Stalinist Russia (which he had also lambasted in "Animal Farm"), but it is also an indictment of totalitarian states in general.

Northern Stage's theatre 1984makes liberal use of film/video (as does Phyllida Lloyd's production of The Duchess of Malfi at the National Theatre). Video is particularly effective when trying to convey nightmares or madness, and brainwashing — a process that can result in both — is a central theme of Orwell's story.

Although played out against a background of vast totalitarian states and constant global war, 1984 is essentially an inside story, a psychological struggle between an oppressive state system and a rebellious individual. It is not enough, in 1984, for the state to be obeyed. It must be loved. It must have total control of its citizens' minds as well as their bodies.

Phrases like "Doublethink" and "Newspeak" have entered the general vocabulary, and Room 101 — "the worst room in the world" where political victims are tortured by having their worse fears realized — has become a comic television show where celebrities are invited to "bin"things they most dislike (rather than fear).

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