Last Thursday, I entered the Esplanade theatre, excited and curious about the show I was about to see. Last Thursday, I left the Esplanade theatre two hours later, disturbed and creeped out.
1984 retells the story (originally a book) of Winston Smith, a young man living in George Orwell’s future dystopian world. Written in 1949, it told of Orwell’s ideas about what the future could hold – where a political party called Big Brother watches your every move, essentially censoring life. Winston falls in love with a young woman named Julia – and is eventually caught and tortured (spoilers) and forced into betraying Julia.
In the play, set, music, and lighting were used amazingly. The set, which originally looked a bit like the inside of a library, changed instantly when Winston was caught. The walls came up and we were left with white, blank walls, which had been there the whole time. The big reveal really emphasized how Big Brother was truly all around you, watching all the time. Additionally – a small part of the play occurred off-stage, with a camera recording Winston and Julia, who were off in another room. Watching them sleep and talk made us feel like Big Brother – like we were laughing along with the enemy.
1984 was incredibly psychological – the play was very confusing at first – with several scenes repeated numerous times. It left us feeling genuinely confused. This repetition was eventually made clear when it was revealed that Big Brother had been psychologically torturing him, making him relive the same day – and brainwashing the people around him so they believed it was normal as well. Living under such oppression, they clearly could not say what they were truly thinking (that’s thought crime!). but instead, they included many times when it was clearly the character’s thoughts, either if everyone else was frozen (even further confusing).
In addition to this, the play’s use of multimedia was extremely distressing. Quite early on, we saw a rebel (thought-criminal) shot in the head. The five-minute-hate had public executions and violent beatings to instil fear in potential rebels.
Overall, the play was incredibly haunting – and frankly, quite scary. But I recommend it to anyone looking for a thoughtful, poignant play.