The production of 1984 to be put on at the Keble O’Reilly in third week is set to be an accurate and visually inventive rendition of George Orwell’s classic dystopian text. It is a well-known novel, featured on many a GCSE syllabus, which will make it all the more difficult for the director Luke Rollason to create a production which will satisfy the book’s many fans. However, if the scenes I saw during their rehearsal are anything to go by, 1984 is going to just as tense, and indeed powerful, as the novel.
The use of technology in the production will involve a live projection of audience members as they enter the theatre and at other intermitted stages during the play – it would seem that all efforts are being made to make Big Brother come to life as much as possible. In the scene of the Two Minute Hate, in which the actors switch from a office-like choreographed sequence to shouting and banging chairs in a raucous mob of hate, the energy is high. However 1984 is not just about the dystopian world of CCTV gone mad, government surveillance and mind control – it is also a love story. The main characters, Winston and Julia, try and beat the system by loving one another, and having lots of sex. From the two scenes I was shown of the lovers, played by Harley Viveash (Winston) and Alice Porter (Julia), it looks like there is going to be a fair amount of flesh on show. It makes for a good contrast with the rigidity of the Two Minute Hate, as is intended and they are well cast – Viveash gives off just the right amount of humble awkwardness when met with the lively and vivacious Porter.
With the plan for the play to come in at just over two hours, I wonder whether the levels of energy that I saw in rehearsal will be able to be maintained, and how the staging will work in the O’Reilly theatre. Rollason wants to have the stage ‘in traverse’, meaning the audience is to be predominantly seated on either side of the stage, with the action taking place in the middle. If they can get it to work with more than just a few audience members there, and I suspect they can, it will be great.
Running from the 8th-11th of May in third week, 1984 is well on its way to re-creating the novel onstage, with enough innovation, clever choreography and good acting to make it worth going to see.