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Review: 1984, at Theatro Technis

Paul Graves stars in highly original adaptation of Orwell classic that bursts with energy

08 March, 2018 — By Michael Stewart

Paul Graves as Winston Smith in 1984. Photo: Robert Piwko

AS you pass through the portals of Theatro Technis you enter a world where your mind will be manipulated by skilled thespians and your disbelief will be willingly suspended or else you might end up an unperson guilty of thoughtcrime. Black-clad guards of Ingsoc (English Socialism) induct you into the party with an armband and then “immerse” you into a frightening dystopia where lies are truth, truth is lies, and the past gets re-written or obliterated entirely.

No, it is not Trump’s White House but George Orwell’s 1984, as adapted by Angharad Ormond and Tower Theatre.

Airstrip One (formerly Great Britain) is now an insignificant adjunct of superpower Oceania, which is constantly at war with either Eurasia or Eastasia. One of their missiles, in fact, lands in the midst of the audience, smothering us in red and white confetti. Protagonist Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth, rewriting past newspaper items in Newspeak so they conform to current party thinking. Fake news, fake history, even loveless fake love: all must adhere to this totalitarian society’s barbaric ethos, whose sole concern is moulding hearts and minds.

Winston, played sympathetically by Paul Graves as an everyman underdog, rebels against this tyranny with their brutal thought police, constant surveillance, and cult of Big Brother. He finds a soulmate in Julia (Chloe Ledger) and embarks on a torrid and highly dangerous love affair. They find a friend in O’Brien (a steely Martin South), a resistance leader in the Brotherhood. But you can trust nobody in this world.

This highly original production bursts with energy, utilising puppetry, music, singing, and choreographed movement so, at times, it resembles a futuristic Les Miserables. Guards and Proles often move to a mindless group-dance rhythm echoing groupthink. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is clearly a source.

Steel yourself though, for the lengthy torture scene and the final, devastating horrors of Room 101.

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