Review: Theatre Group present 1984

TG’s 1984 is a carefully realised totalitarian triumph that would surely make our masterful father Kim Jong Un look wistfully into the distance and shed a tear of pride. For […]


TG’s 1984 is a carefully realised totalitarian triumph that would surely make our masterful father Kim Jong Un look wistfully into the distance and shed a tear of pride.

3 half stars

For every eleven people within our fair country there is a surveillance camera. It is now commonplace and normal to hear that we are monitored, data of our activities and whereabouts subject to collection, manipulation, and analysis by powers that be. Hushed rumours and leaks spread of vast, all-encompassing surveillance systems, of security agencies listening in to your phone calls, and watching you through your laptop webcam as you stuff your face with re-heated take-away at 1am, (they know what your browser history looks like too, you should be ashamed).

1984 1

Orwell’s world of camera surveillance feels perhaps a little too uncomfortably close to home in this respect, and TG’s rendition effectively captured this nightmarish ‘big-brother’ reality. Aligned in the flanks sat TV set atop TV set, each showing fuzzy stock footage of war or filmed propaganda extracts. In the background, a projection system played prepared films of dictatorial whoopla, camera feeds shot live footage of the performance which were played intermittently onto the tv sets, and before starting, a mechanistic and autonomous cast greeted the audience sitting uniform in rows, operating imaginary equipment like some broken mechanical proletariat. It is clear that the team put a lot of love and care into recreating the atmosphere of the source material.

Photo Credit: Joe Buckingham

Photo Credit: Joe Buckingham

Central to the story, our Winston, (Mike Cottrell) gave every inch of himself to this dejected and sickly incarnation, and for this he deserves commendation. His sunken posture and irate glowering was perhaps a bit too overplayed for my liking during the opening acts, but he worked, and he was tortured well. Stripped down to his boxers and strapped to all manner of boards and chairs, Mike had to endure being half drowned, electrocuted, and beaten and he did so convincingly, if not with maybe a little too much dramatic overemphasis. He was brilliant in his final ‘re-educated’ form, and indeed, fostered good chemistry with defiant renegade Julia.

Photo Credit: Joe Buckingham

Photo Credit: Joe Buckingham

His love-bird, (Sally White) was the rebellious, sexy scarlet that I remember from the book, if not a bit more energetic and enthusiastic. Unlike Mike, Sally seemed perhaps too high-spirited for the setting, it almost made me question why Winston was so sad. Regardless, her performance strengthened into the later acts, and she was delightful alongside Mike, truly; it felt like it was them versus the world, and when they were broken apart she loosed particularly convincing, heartfelt sorrows.

Photo Credit: Joe Buckingham

Photo Credit: Joe Buckingham

My favourite figure of the book was always the brutal, stomp your face repeatedly O’Brien. I was very happy to find that he was aptly cast. Oliver Bray maintained a severe, authoritative look, he stalked about the stage cold, calculating, reserved, which really helped to emphasise his later ferocious bursts of anger by contrast. My only complaint would be that his accent was slightly jarring and he fumbled a line or two, but hell, Bray fostered the brutal, cynical monster brilliantly. Later, a white curtain separated half the stage, leaving O’Brien towering over the tortured figure of Winston, and the two really shone together in their back and fourths.

Photo Credit: Joe Buckingham

Photo Credit: Joe Buckingham

Peter Ward definitely stood out, deserving credit for his various roles, and Will Cook was great as Parsons. The production boasted some really impressive usage of shadows and lighting in the final act, also notable during the torture sequences, also music.

From a cinematic perspective, the show was suitably dark and atmospheric due to proper usage of these technological efforts, and despite feeling a tad too long, TG’s 1984 was a really well realised production that unfortunately lacked a wholly convincing cast. A loving ode to Orwell.

Have you seen TG’s 1984? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!