Friday, 11 September 2015

Review 1984 at Nottingham Playhouse.

Hitting the Nottingham Playhouse stage with both bare and bleeding feet running, Duncan Macmillan and Robert Icke's Olivier Award winning acclaimed adaptation of George Orwell's dark political drama 1984, is a sure fire choice in starting off the Playhouse's Conspiracy Season with a startling bang.


Fresh from two runs in London's West End where it has been playing to packed houses, this terrifying theatrical version of 1984 ( a co-production between Nottingham Playhouse, Headlong and Almeida Theatre) wows and frightens. The various design elements; lighting by Natasha Chivers; stage design by Chloe Lamford and sound and video design by Tom Gibbons and Tim Reid respectively prove a collective theatrical and shocking tour de force. The adaptation inspired by the appendix of 1984 and directed by McMillan and Icke is phenomenal and this is truly theatre that makes us think about language and the nature of freedom and questions the fickle  natures of memory and reality.

Although the real year 1984 is long past, Orwell's bleak world of Big Brother watching still rings scarily true today with surveillance cameras high above most city streets in the world and monitors protecting and probing our every move in the shops and public buildings. In this fictional world where keeping a diary is unlawful and thoughts are criminalised, being in love is actively forbidden and history erased, the audience is completely gripped throughout. You can almost hear the audience's collective hearts breaking over Winston and Julia's doomed love affair as their world is literally pulled apart and gasps of real shock over Winston's torture.

Often it is said that a theatrical venture is an ensemble piece. Perhaps this can be a lazy description but not so in this constantly changing play of 1984 where within a second's worth of blackout the cast re-appear in completely different places on the stage and verbal repetition and human erasure fight for attention. Mere ensemble, hardly does the art justice. It is easy to see why this production has universally been offered five stars by the critics. Abstractly quoting from the play, maybe the critics were unsure whether they were seeing five or four stars and, terrified out of their wits, opted for five. If six or seven stars were another option 1984 would still be most deserving.

Every single performance by the ensemble; Tim Dutton, Stephen Fewell, Janine Harouni (Julia), Christopher Patrick Nolan, Ben Porter, Matthew Spencer (Winston), Simon Coates, Mandi Symonds, and the young girl played by either Anna Jaques or Victoria Todd is exemplary.

1984 is one heck of a production and deserves to go on winning award after award as it continues at Nottingham Playhouse and goes on to Australia and the USA.

Runs until Saturday 26th September 2015 at Nottingham Playhouse

See Nottingham Playhouse ONLINE to book and see more details about the stunning Conspiracy Season ahead.

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