Stepping Back to the Future with 1984

So it might be a bit obvious what this post is about but last night I went along to see the new stage adaptation of George Orwell's classic novel 'Nineteen Eighty-Four.'

Now here I will be honest and say that I haven't actually read the novel myself although obviously its themes are well known to me by the way that they have made their way into popular culture and consciousness. Since the year 1948 when it was written - Big Brother, Room 101, thoughtcrime, 2+2=5 and so many other things that we are aware of today even if we don't realise exactly why (which I agree - we should) are part of the world in which we live.

This latest version has been re-imagined for the stage by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan and is performed by the brilliant Headlong Theatre Company.

For those not familiar with the story it is set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain) part of the superstate Oceania that has come about following a global atomic war. Oceania is one of three superstates perpetually at war and under the control of an all seeing, all controlling government. Government surveillance (Big Brother is watching you!) and public manipulation is gradually re-writing history and wiping out individual thought, expression and general humanity as we know it.

It centres around the story of Winston Smith who begins to question the oppressive rule of the party and sets about writing a journal of life in 1984 for the generations of the future, writing out against the oppression and domination of the government. The very act of thinking out against the party and indeed of writing it down is a move, if caught, that is surely punishable by death. The plot follows Winston on this journey of rebellion and to its ultimate and probably expected conclusion.

This newest adaptation has bought things further into the future to around 2050 where the players are part of a discussion about the authenticity and realism of Winstons text. Is it authentic? Is it historical record or a work of fiction? Did Winston Smith really exist or is this book just another way of the party keeping control - making people believe they are now free when really they are not?

It poses many key questions about the reality of individual liberty and the value of true humanity and ultimately leaves you reeling and thinking out loud about all of the realities and possibilities.

The cast were all superb, the set really effective - especially the lucid brightness of room 101. Overall a great and strong new transformation from novel to stage that left me thinking far into the night ahead.

The play is currently showing at the Playhouse Theatre near Londons Embankment and runs until Saturday 23rd August. With a number of tickets on sale at the ingenious price of £19.84 it's well worth a watch so if you can get yourself along there this month then do go, think and enjoy!