Theatre Review - 1984

Jude Akuwudike, Kit Reeve and Declan Rodgers in 1984 [The Other Richard]

ADAM Taub’s adaptation of 1984 condenses George Orwell’s dystopian tale into 75 minutes.

We’re given numbered badges and ushered into Hackney Town Hall’s covered courtyard by unsmiling officials wearing blue overalls.

We glimpse people monitoring us from upstairs windows, but a bar offering cocktails and the pleasant crooning of a lounge singer lull us into a false sense of security.

When the chanteuse concludes with an anthem for Oceania (Orwell’s superstate), set to the tune of Que Sera Sera, we know something is wrong.

The audience dutifully troop upstairs to the council chambers, the Ministry of Truth. We take a written personality test and are berated by party official O’Brien (Jude Akuwudike), who reminds us that Big Brother is watching.

Here we meet Winston (Declan Rodgers), a cog in the machine, and witness his affair with Julia (Kit Reeve) on screen. Returning to the courtyard, we watch the pair (and their arrest) at close quarters, before congregating upstairs again for Winston’s torture and the infamous room 101.

Jem Wall and Richard Hahlo’s immersive production creates a palpable sense of menace but little sympathy for the two rebels.

We know roughly what to expect, so the telling is important. Effectively this “promenade” performance utilises only two spaces. Drama mounts when Winston is carried off in a glass lift. I’d have welcomed more shifts in scene and tone.

Until November 23

Originlly published by Camden New Journal