1984

EmpathEyes theatre presents a beautifully directed and innovative adaptation of Orwell’s classic dystopian novel. An incredibly verbose and slow moving work, Matthew Dunster has done a superb job in his adaptation. This is coupled with a preference for showing not telling, allowing for the production to race through the establishing scenes with panache and amazingly without losing any important plot information. Unfamiliarity with the text, however, could result in some confusion over the opening ten minutes, as the spectacular physical theatre can distract from the content.

1984 follows government bureaucrat Winston Smith in his personal rebellion against the oppressive rule of The Party. Locked in a perpetual nightmare, Winston seeks out the few left who may share his heretical resolve. There is certainly no lack of creative staging, with the space and minimal props used to great effect. The Thought Police in particular have been carefully considered and are deeply sinister. The acting is mostly strong across the board: the supporting cast do a magnificent job and Julia, though slightly one-dimensional, is very convincing and gives a confident performance. The villain of the piece, however, has been fundamentally misjudged and as such is often grating.

The hyper-stylised nature of the performance gave way to the naturalism of Winston and Julia’s love story at an appropriate point, but the remnants of this betray the twist in the tale. Complementing the show is live music, the beauty of which creates a striking contrast to the cold horror of the world of Oceania. Speakers and the telescreen are used to voice private thoughts, with the telescreen being particularly perturbing. More hit and miss is the use of the projector; confines of the stage often meant that the view was broken and, especially towards the end, the films were of distinctly higher quality than the events on stage. These were scary, as was appropriate, but were not matched by the stage performance. A pity, as almost everything had been spot-on up to this point.

EmpathEyes are one to watch. Their eye for detail is exquisite and I look forward to their future productions.

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The Blurb

With live music, multimedia projections, and pulsating physicality, we enter oppressive Oceania in this new adaptation of 1984. Winston spins between hopes of love and threats of torture, as his every movement is tracked. www.1984fringe.tumblr.com. ‘Arresting’ ***** (RemoteGoat.co.uk).

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