“1984” is this fall’s best Broadway offering
For those of you that have been living under a rock, George Orwell’s classic dystopian
1984 has been adapted into a play. Written in 1944, 1984 is an imagined “futuristic” society where thought, emotions, language, and love are closely regulated and controlled by the government named Big Brother. The story takes place in Great Britain, now named Oceania, and centers around a simple low-ranking member of the one and only political party. Our protagonist, Winston Smith serial number 6079, works in the Ministry of Truth where his job is to “fix” history in order to promote the ideals of the Party. Winston soon realizes the fallacies and atrocities that the Party commits and is shocked that no other individual can see them as well. However, he soon meets Julia and learns that she too can see through the deception. They soon develop feelings for eachother and must navigate their forbidden love all while trying
to take down the Party from the inside.
Besides the incredible plot, this show’s true splendor lies in its use of video, lighting, and set design. Without spoiling anything, one truly remarkable set change happens in front of your eyes that would usually call for an intermission. The use of lighting truly does its job in agitating the audience and making one uncomfortably squirm in their seat. Pace University freshman and Film and Screen Studies major, Courtney O’Connell, was amazed by the shows use of lighting and other effects.
“The sound and lighting design combined with the graphic design special effects, created an unnerving effect that left me speechless and shocked as I left the theatre,” O’Connell said.
Though this adaptation of 1984 is a complete masterpiece, I don’t advise you see it if you have a queasy stomach. Audience members have reportedly vomited, fainted, and even in some cases become so enraged that they get into fights. At one show, audience members yelled at the actors and begged them to stop during the show. One show was reportedly so violent that star Olivia Wilde broke her tailbone and star Tom Sturridge broke his nose. To be fair, the production does come with both a trigger warning and an age restriction (14+ only), but I can’t recommend it if physical and psychological trauma is particularly upsetting to you.
“We’re not trying to be willfully assaultive or exploitatively shock people, but there’s nothing here or in the disturbing novel that isn’t happening right now, somewhere around the world: People are being detained without trial, tortured and executed. We can sanitize that and make people feel comforted, or we can simply present it without commentary and allow it to speak for itself,” co-writer of the play Duncan Macmillan told The Hollywood Reporter.
Both Macmillan and other co-writer Robert Icke told The Hollywood Reporter that it is theater like this that gets to people, and well, that’s the point.
“You can stay and watch or you can leave — that’s a perfectly fine reaction to watching someone be tortured. But if this show is the most upsetting part of anyone’s day, they’re not reading the news headlines,” Icke said. “Things are much worse than a piece of theater getting under your skin a little bit.”
George Orwell wrote the book 1984 to reflect his concern over the spread of totalitarianism around the globe. He saw how enemies would often change sides but that war was never ending, how the freedom of information was being violated, and how surveillance was used in oppressive ways. He wrote this book as a sort of manifesto of his beliefs and a warning to future generations.
I hope this insightful and extraordinarily relevant play continues to tour and spread its important message. Only by informing our populous of the severity of the actions by the those in power can we as a nation say with one united voice, “Down with Big Brother!”
Photo courtesy of Playbill