Every once in a while, you’ll see a show that makes you lean forward. You’ll be unaware of how tense your body has been. It’ll stay with you long after the house lights have come back up and you’ve walked out. You wonder whether you’ll see anything more powerful this year. That is what this stunning production of 1984 delivers.

George Orwell’s dystopian novel has enthralled generations for almost 70 years. This adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan debuted in 2013 and has received exceptional reviews ever since.

You will feel discomfort. There’s loud noises and bright lights and total darkness and jarring, synchronised movements. There’s an unspoken harsh truth about how accurate a prediction Orwell made many years ago. This world is nightmarish and full of sharpness. It’s chilling and makes your heart race.

Utilising cameras to project live feeds and have the sound synced perfectly allows this production to really push the boundaries of theatre. It allows the cast to be in a different space and not visible on stage, whilst still be projected through the eyes of Big Brother for all to see. It also gives unique angles and further impact as needed.

The Two Minutes Hate scene is sure to send shivers down your spine and unsettle your stomach. This fierce moment is driven by confronting propaganda and emphasised by bloody screams of hatred from the usually-restrained characters. Winston removing unpersons from records so they never existed in the eyes of The Party is quietly disturbing.

Room 101 and the journey there is where this show will blow you away. The set, the torture devices and performances from Tom Conroy as Winston and Terence Crawford as O’Brien are magnificent. It’s seemingly executed effortlessly. The façade of the stage seems to slip away. There in Room 101 are some truly intense, simulated graphic scenes.

Conroy tackles desperate Winston Smith expertly. His performance is particularly memorable throughout Room 101. His commitment to both a physical and emotional enactment is exemplary. Ursula Mills as Julia conveys the passion and loyalty to Winston, allowing for the show to maintain its attachment to humanity. Conroy and Mills work well together to provide a glimmer of hope in these rebellious characters, and together embody the essence of anti-establishment.

Crawford’s O’Brien is wonderfully wicked. He’s all-powerful and painfully loyal to The Party. His word is what goes and ethics don’t matter. Crawford’s very presence on stage is enough to send fear into the minds of the audience.

This is an exceptional cast, very well-rehearsed. Their timing is impeccable and it’s clear that extensive character research and development has taken place to deliver such high-quality and believable characters.

The costumes and set reflect a Soviet vibe that comes through in Orwell’s writing, though the Thought Police and torturers later have truly intimidating costumes. The tricks of light and sound enhance this nightmare immensely. The set is ingenious. This production is technically perfect.

1984 is theatre at its cleverest. Orwell’s words have jumped off the pages and onto an incredible stage production that decimates so many theatre conventions. It will leave you floored and has raised the bar for what theatre can offer with technical integration.

1984 is on at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre until 10 June 2017 and continuing its tour to Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Perth.

 

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