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Reed Birney, Olivia Wilde & Tom Sturridge in 1984
Reed Birney, Olivia Wilde & Tom Sturridge in 1984
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Having enjoyed a number of successful limited engagements in London’s West End, Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s adaptation of George Orwell’s classic thriller 1984 has finally brought its terrifying world of surveillance to the Great White Way. Perhaps the most shocking Broadway production in recent years and so relevant to the society of today (and where we may well be headed as a society of tomorrow), Big Brother has now insisted that 1984 be crowned our #ShowOfTheWeek.

From the moment you enter the auditorium, there is an unsettling feeling that we are possibly being monitored ourselves with a low level of noise vibration echoing into the theatre. The predominant effect of the show is already set in motion before the curtain has even risen. Indeed throughout the production, the staging is designed to disorientate us with discombobulating lighting and sound effects. Directed by Icke and Macmillan themselves, these tactics are employed with terrifying precision and ensure that we never sit comfortably in our seats and instead always find ourselves on the edge of them. Ingeniously we also become witness to the other side of the coin and gain insight into those who monitor and control by the excessive use of video cameras, particularly in the off-stage scenes between protagonists Winston Smith (a strangely alluring Tom Sturridge) and Julia (an unyielding Olivia Wilde in her Broadway debut). As the couple meet for romantic trysts at a supposedly private antique shop, we watch them from various angles via CCTV-style hidden cameras. It seems we have two options – we are either the oppressed or the oppressors.

A stalwart constituent of the school syllabus, George Orwell’s novel was written in 1949 and set in 1984, depicting a dystopian future under the iron fist of a totalitarian (and perhaps fictional) leader known as Big Brother. Critical opinion and freedom of expression is supressed and propaganda terms such as “thought criminal” and “newspeak” are thrown about with the same level of accusation as the word “communist” in the McCarthyism era. The scary notion here is how Orwell was able to foresee the reality of our present and present it as science-fiction at the time of publishing. The cast member who embodies the sheer terror of the play and the production’s most valued player, in my opinion, is Tony winner Reed Birney, who unrelentingly portrays high-ranking official O’Brien. His lack of human compassion and unshakeable belief in what he is doing make for one of the most disturbing characters I have witnessed on stage in a very long time… maybe even ever. Birney rises to the challenge with such subtleties that make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. Read our exclusive interview with Reed Birney HERE.

Producers of the show have issued an age restriction of 13 and above as a result of audience members feeling nauseous and fainting during those infamous scenes in Room 101 at the chillingly named “Ministry of Love” and yes, this show isn’t for everybody due to its graphic content. But if you like your drama to shake you to your core and force you to reflect on the times we live in, then 1984 is the ultimate theatrical warning shot for you.

Click here for tickets to 1984 for performances through to October 8, 2017 at Broadway's Hudson Theatre.

- by Tom Millward

Production Details
Venue: Hudson Theatre
Genre: Thriller
Previewed: 18 May 2017
Opened: 22 Jun 2017
Playwright: George Orwell, adapted by Robert Icke & Duncan Macmillan
Director: Robert Icke & Duncan Macmillan

Synopsis: Based on the popular George Orwell novel, 1984 depicts a dystopian future where critical thought is suppressed under a totalitarian regime.

Cast: Tom Sturridge (Winston Smith), Olivia Wilde (Julia), Reed Birney (O'Brien), Wayne Duvall (Parsons), Carl Hendrick Louis (Martin), Nick Mills (Syme), Michael Potts (Charrington) and Cara Seymour (Mrs. Parsons)




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