1984 Gets a Makeover

There are three reasons why students should go and see UCLU Drama Society’s 1984. And not all of them involve nudity and Michael Chessum.

1984 Bloomsbury Drama

There are three reasons why students should go and see UCLU Drama Society’s 1984.

First, it is a brilliantly directed piece of theatre, which melds both superb ensemble collaboration with some truly standout individual performances.

Secondly, you get a chance to see Michael Chessum play Big Brother’s subservient bitch, with more than a few hints of sado-masochism.

This enticing concoction is blown into the stratosphere by the genius casting of UCL Provost Malcolm Grant as Big Brother; the chance to see Chessum stare longingly upwards, lip quivering, at his Kiwi master is definitely worth £5 admission.

Thirdly, the female romantic lead, Kate Hesketh, spends the majority of the production in her underwear. And strips three separate times, showing off a figure that has been honed perfectly for the Bloomsbury stage.

But be assured this production also excels in less important areas. Vocal projection, easily lost in first night nerves, was suburb from the entire cast (particular credit to the two guards who reached the back row even in a gas mask!).

The ensemble work was almost flawless, and their precision was evident during multiple pauses, slow-motion sequences and united action. In fact, it was a shame their combined physicality did not have a greater role in the overall production.

The direction and blocking was excellent; it seemed as though Robert Lepage had stepped in at one point with actors strayed across the stage, waiting perfectly still as the projection moved seamlessly to the right as our eyes fell onto Winston, the unfortunate victim of Orwell’s tale.

Theo Gordon played this part with a searing honesty that was captivating to watch. His monologue, performed in a sole pool of light, saw his body and voice reach Grotowskian levels of pain to produce one of the best few minutes of theatre in the evening.

Hesketh played a difficult role very well, and her falling in love with Gordon was convincing without appearing contrived.

Chessum had a difficult time at the start as his stage time was limited, but by the end his O’Brian was a towering presence that commanded the stage.

A mention must go to Olivia Dowd, who’s Landlady offered (much needed!) comic relief alongside a beautiful vocal performance.

In a production that offered much scope for interpretation from the creative team, it is refreshing that the directors resisted taking an oppressive role. Apart from an odd sequence of canned laughter towards the end, the directing was confident in putting the excellent cast centre stage.

Whilst many students may be attracted by the semi-nudity, or the chance to see a torturous Chessum, the real reason you should see 1984 is because it is an excellent production, with acting that should not be missed.

Word on the street is that tickets have sold fast, so get in quick. Tickets for the Friday matinee will definitely be available.