Review: 1984 – A Production by Tell Tale Theatre
Held in the whimsical event space Constellations, Tell Tale Theatre performed their take of George Orwell’s famous novel 1984. As we arrived we were led through the bar and restaurant area (seemingly like Central Perk meets Ikea) where a sliding wall revealed the set up and it felt very secretive to be presented to the room in this hushed manner. Granted, we were late and the play was 5 minutes in – thank you 86A.
(image: example of one of the many quirky events @ Constellations)
As a basic summary you could lend a production of George Orwell’s 1984 simply to: Politics, rebellion and love. But let’s delve in to the performance of Tell Tale Theatre and imagine yourself in a world of only three countries, those of which are at war. Almost unimaginable many will think, but as many pride Orwell on, his political conceits are not too far from home. Oceania is where the action unveils and is home to protagonist Winston who is one of many living under the totalitarian control of Big Brother. This establishment has found its name replicated by the mind-numbing reality show in modern popular culture – it’s not surprising that the modern viewer could easily lose as many free-thinking brain cells as those in Oceania. But not Winston, he has a desire for rebellion and seeks this through a series of events that lead him in to love, sex and fighting the establishment. In this plot, where he finds passion he also faces betrayal. If the risqué life of this protagonist doesn’t grip you, it will be the absolute test of human spirit through torture that definitely will. This production livened the reality of such a powerful journey of living amongst conformity.
The theatre company didn’t present a stage but rather a backdrop and one physical set for a small part of the play. The rest of the performance was presented between two wings of an audience in narrow traverse. This dynamic engaged the imagination of the audience, thanks to the intimacy and their bold voices. The actors solely illuminated the story with their proxemics and expression which to me, is a powerful gesture in relation to the theme of Orwell’s dystopia. Provoking the imagination juxtaposes the rigid society of Oceana.
From having read the book first, it was thrilling to be able to feel the emotion and connect to this suffering physically – particularly in regards to the actor who played Winston. The actress who played Julia performed very well and her character was portrayed as incredibly confident in their desires compared to Winston. This was an interesting take, as I believe that Orwell depicts him as a strong character. Yes, she is the temptress but it is clear that they really homed in on the concept of Julia emancipating his passion to rebel.
As for the cast as a whole, they were predominantly dressed in mechanic overalls which tied together with the set pieces of corrugated iron walls and flickering visuals of an eye. The video that represented the surveillance portrayed a horror like notion to the set making it feel as though there had been an apocalypse. This is another portrayal that interestingly did not meet my perceptions of the original text but offered a new perception to enjoy.
In some ways, the theatre company’s representation of the plot was slightly underwhelming. The reason being that there was a stronger focus on Julia’s seduction into rebellion than any other aspect of the book. I would have personally liked to have seen the story portrayed more through Winston’s mind, incorporating the books reoccurring themes to create the sense of foreboding in this visual way. The acting itself was well delivered and I enjoyed this first encounter of 1984 as a production – Tell Tale Theatre provided an entertaining evening and for only £10 for a ticket I would recommend you to look out for any upcoming events.