One of the main advantages of theatre is that the actors are physically there in front of you acting. There is a certain rawness to theatre that gives it this powerfulness, which can be used to convey strong messages and themes and emotion to audiences.
1984 is a story that could greatly benefit from that rawness, but it does not deliver. It is a piece that is very relevant in this day and age, Big Brother and The Party oppressing the masses with the Thought Police, no-one is allowed independent thought, and Winston Smith finds himself in the Department of Love after falling for Julia, a rebellious woman he meets in a world that is devoid of any real emotion.
The shows biggest failing is the fact that all the interactions between these two pivotal characters is all done through pre-recorded segments shown on a relatively small screen. These pre-recorded segments did not take advantage of the fact they were pre-recorded in any aspect, the actual footage was just plainly filmed and did not do any interesting editing or any effects to justify the footage. Some aspects of the pre-recorded footage did work well, they had short segments of Big Brothers face on the screen staring down the audience with the words “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” repeating, as a robotic voice spreads the glorious news was great to create a real sense of unease and emphasize the omniety of Big Brother and The Party.
Another thing that was a detriment to the show was the performer playing O’Brien was reading his lines off a tablet. We were informed at the beginning that an alternate actor would be stepping up to the portray O’Brien, but most of his lines and facial expressions where unfortunately lost as he was looking down to read. I understand that things can happen, and actors can’t do shows anymore, but the lack of an understudy I think is an extreme oversight for the production. It is not a character that you can just pick up and play, he needs a real severity too him that was not there.
The lead performer playing Winston Smith did a very good job, he had a lovely naturalness to him, but the fact that most of his acting was in video format was an overall blow to the piece. It lacked any real oomph; I wasn’t left with the heaviness that a story like 1984 should have hit me with. For a story that is very relevant with its corrupt governments, restriction of emotion and suppression of individuality, it missed its mark.
Reviewer: Euan Huth
Reviewed: 19th August 2023
North West End UK Rating: