1984

‘1984’: Olivia Wilde, Tom Sturridge & the cast. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

 

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1984
By George Orwell
A new adaptation created by Robert Icke & Duncan Macmillan
Directed by Robert Icke & Duncan Macmillan
Hudson Theatre
139-141 West 44th Street
855-801-5876. http://www.revisedtruth.com

 

By Scott Harrah

Those who have never read George Orwell’s 1984 are advised to do so before attending this hard-to-follow stage adaptation. The show recently transferred to Broadway after several runs in London and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Even if you have read the book, there are plenty of disturbing scenes that pay homage to the classic novel about a dystopian future. Does it have parallels between Big Brother and the current administration in Washington? Perhaps, but even so, this is not an enjoyable or intellectually stimulating, intermission-free 101 minutes of theater.

In this age of “alternative facts” and claims of “fake news,” 1984 and its theme of reality being denied should seem like a chilling reminder of what’s happening in 2017, but the narrative as adapted by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan is simply so disjointed that it’s often puzzling to understand what’s happening, even if one is already familiar with the book’s plot.

Although the setting is 1984, we’re really watching things happen in, uh, 2050? (Don’t ask.) Winston (Tom Sturridge) is a bureaucrat rewriting history for the Ministry of Truth, in a world controlled by Big Brother and a network of telescreens that monitor people’s words and actions and the Thought Police try to eliminate “Thought crime.” After a nuclear holocaust, the world is divided into Eurasia, Eastasia and Oceania (which includes the United Kingdom and North America). The totalitarian government introduces a new language, “newspeak,” so no one even has the words to speak out against the state.

Winston commits the crime of falling in love with Julia (Olivia Wilde). A number of things happen as a result, but expect lots of shouting, creepy music, flashing lights, and some scenes with Winston and Olivia projected onto the stage like a film.

Ads for the Broadway version of 1984, PR for the show and even notices in the theater warn about graphic violence and “torture” scenes. Yes, there are some lurid sections, including a projected video close-up of a man being shot in the head and the consequential blood and gore, but by the time this happens, it all just seems so pointless. Other than an especially gripping performance by Tony Award winner Reed Birney as O’Brien, the overzealous Party leader, this 1984 adaptation, while ambitious, fails to “scare” and instead just disappoints us.

 

 

Edited by Scott Harrah
Published July 16, 2017

 

1984

‘1984’: The cast. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

1984

‘1984’: Reed Birney, Olivia Wilde & Tom Sturridge. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

1984

‘1984’: Tom Sturridge & Reed Birney. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

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