‘Like something out of a builder’s rudest dream…’ An industrial amphitheatre takes centre stage at the NNT

It’s surprising how literally 1984 embodied its source text’s anti-establishment convictions.

Looking like something out of a builder’s rudest dream – all frayed rope and rustic scaffolding – the New Theatre’s most recent production certainly did a good job of creating a sense of unease. But whether this was a reflection of the play’s prevailing dystopian malevolence or because the set had all the structural integrity of a double-dunked rich tea biscuit is up for debate.

1984 doesn’t naturally equate ‘intimate stage production’ but director Bridie Rollins and her enthusiastic crew have – largely – pulled the proverbial cat out of its favourite bag.

Following the original Mathew Dunster adaptation, 1984 radiates a passion for the seminal source material. Gloomy and stuffy, the production oozes a sense of inexorable oppression complimented by a dedication to the unsettling eloquence that so characterises its parent.

Ultimately, it just about stumbles onto the right side of ‘uncomfortable.’

Aesthetics and atmosphere aside, a play would be worth nothing without quality performances, something that 1984 can proudly boast about. Richard Hill as O’Brien and Hugh William’s Syme are particular standouts and prolific scene-stealers.

However, while not necessarily poor in itself, Ben Hollands’ Winston suffers in comparison to the class on show elsewhere. Somewhat superficial and surprisingly uninteresting, Winston-heavy scenes too often debased into the murky waters of apathy.

This wasn’t entirely Holland’s fault however. Despite chiefly committing to its senior source, 1984 was an occasional tonal miss-hit. Most notably, the thematically integral romance between Winston and Julia felt more ‘high-school-disco-fumble’ than ‘epic-anarchic-romance.’

Narrative jumps are a telling irk too, with the Machiavellian O’Brien introduced with all the tact of a clown at Christmas.

While conclusively a tad overlong, 1984 offers an unnerving rendition of one of literature’s most famous dystopias, albeit one garnished with jarring minutiae.

Due to overwhelming popularity and demand, all shows have filled their booking allocations, however an extra matinee is scheduled for Friday at 2.30pm. Email [email protected] to reserve a ticket!