Monday, December 4

Immersive 1984 – Hackney Town Hall

Fancy a break from the ghouls and gore this Halloween? 1984 immersive experience offers the chill and terror of being governed by an authoritarian state. Having devoured the book years ago, I was excited to see how the world of the book would be brought to life. Hackney County Hall’s large space, with a fusion of classic and modern elements was an ideal setting for it. The split stairways and tall ceilings gave the place a ministerial authority. Party members in blue jumpsuits wore stern, mistrusting expressions and gave strict orders.

For those who aren’t familiar with the book, Orwell wrote it in 1949, imagining what the near future might look like. He depicts a hyper controlling government which thought-polices and scrutinises individuals. Winston, a “thought criminal” works for the party, but his dreams of rebellion are ignited when he meets and falls in love with a fellow thought-criminal Julia.

My group was led into a grand council chamber, ushered by the militant party workers. After a short assessment, party leader O’Brien (Jude Akuwudlike) waltzes in like a TED talk leader, with a smooth, artful delivery. His cool, detached charisma and self-righteousness really honed in on the dystopian element.

Photo: The Other Richard

The acting was perfect for the style of piece with the right level of emotion and back story, skilfully co-directed by Jem Hall and Richard Hahlo. They had a real believability which is no easy feat for an hour-long show. Julia (Kit Reeve) was sultry, and whimsical. Winston (Declan Rodgers) was sincere, bashful, and altruistic. There was not quite as much nuance to Winston’s character as in the book but it’s hard to convey the same rich inner world.

I wanted to see more to Winston’s character than just his relationship with Julia and to see more of a build to Winston actively deciding to rebel but maybe other groups witnessed this and I’m just being greedy, and forgetting about the varied experiences in immersive plays.

From the show my group had, O’Brien’s character really carried the plot. Akuwudlike conveyed an almost person-less being, a voice of a whole society rather than an individual. As for the ensemble, it would have been interesting to see some kind of hierarchy or some distinction between different roles within the party.

Jeroen van Dooren’s set design highlighted the signature props. There was a dramatic use of the lift and of different levels, and I enjoyed glimpsing party members marching around upstairs, feeling the extensiveness of the surveillance.

The script incorporated all the key 1984 terminology, and attempted to brainwash the audience, just as they did with Winston.

Showing until 17th December

Reviewer: Riana Howarth

Reviewed: 26th October 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.