How prescient was George Orwell when he penned his dystopian novel 1984, a story of the loss of individual identity, destruction of privacy, the perversion of language and ghastly punishments for those who transgress the norm in the totalitarian state, like the hero, Winston (played by Tom Conroy) and his girlfriend Julia (played by Ursula Mills).
Orwell envisaged such an authoritarian society occurring under socialism, but “Big Brother” also resonates in contemporary societies which use physical and mental torture and actual and virtual surveillance to control its own citizens and those of other countries.
Winston’s act of defiance is to maintain a diary, which represents an individual rebellion against the totalitarian state, and Julia’s disobedience is to love Winston and to enjoy sex.
Orwell invents a special language for his dysfunctional, anti-human world: “Newspeak” is the official language of the world of Oceania and was specifically designed, as Orwell writes, “to diminish the range of thought”.
Orwell’s sense of irony is reflected in his descriptions of the various organs of this despotic society such as the Ministry of Love, which enforces subservience to Big Brother, and the Ministry of Peace, the military wing of the Oceania government.
Remaining true to the novel, the directors use dramatic multimedia effects such as multiple spilt screens, explosions and strobe lighting to effectively portray the terror of living under such a regime.
This is an impressive interpretation of Orwell’s fiction written almost 70 years ago. If he lived in the present, I doubt whether he would have much to add, change or criticise in this stage version of his novel.
Until Jul 22. Roslyn Packer Theatre, 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay. $40-$110+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneytheatre.com.au
Reviewed by Irina Dunn.