Incredibly intense, and a stunning sensory experience. Standout performances from Sam Crane and Tim Dutton. Watch it and weep.
Until Sat Aug 23
© Manuel Harlan
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Posted: Fri May 9 2014
Headlong’s adaptation of George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ is such a sense-overloadingly visceral experience that it was only the second time around, as it transfers to the West End, that I realised quite how political it was.
Writer-directors Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan have reconfigured Orwell’s plot, making it less about Stalinism, more about state-sponsored torture. Which makes great, queasy theatre, as Sam Crane’s frail Winston stumbles through 101 minutes of disorientating flashbacks, agonising reminisce, blinding lights, distorted roars, walls that explode in hails of sparks, figures that silently materialise from shadows, and the almost-too-much-to-bear Room 101 section, which churns past like ‘The Prisoner’ relocated to Guantanamo Bay.
It’s easy to be distracted by the sound and fury, and the clever structural tricks – it was only upon rewatching that I realised how directly it asks the question: could we be in ‘1984’ now?
Crane’s traumatised Winston lives in two strangely overlapping time zones – 1984 and an unspecified present day. The former, with its two-minute hate and its sexcrime and its Ministry of Love, clearly never happened. But the present day version, in which a shattered Winston groggily staggers through a 'norma'l but entirely indifferent world, is plausible. Any individual who has crossed the state – and there are some obvious examples – could go through what Orwell’s Winston went through. Second time out, it feels like an angrier and more emotionally righteous play.
Some weaknesses become more apparent second time too. While Hara Yannas’s creepily naïve Julia, Tim Dutton’s malevolently suave O’Brien and new cast member Crane’s Winston all impress, they’re essentially ciphers, not characters, something that’s less masked by techy flourishes if you’ve seen the show already.
Nonetheless, unless you’re a theatre critic I’m not sure you’d feel the need to put yourself through this brilliant but brutal production again; and if you do, then any familiarity will be lost in Room 101, a sequence that might make Blair himself blanche.
- Event website:
Theatre. Drama. Off-West End
- Date Venue Time Price information
Tue Jul 2919:30£8-£32. Runs 1hr 41mins (no interval)Buy tickets
Wed Jul 3014:30£8-£32. Runs 1hr 41mins (no interval)Buy tickets
Wed Jul 3019:30£8-£32. Runs 1hr 41mins (no interval)Buy tickets
Thu Jul 3119:30£8-£32. Runs 1hr 41mins (no interval)Buy tickets
Average User Rating
3.8 / 5
- 5 star:5
- 4 star:6
- 3 star:1
- 2 star:2
- 1 star:1
Just awful. First half I kept dozing off it was such a bore that made no sense what so ever. Then when it got loud and violent I stayed awake and still was confused and bored withe tbire concept. No idea what play was about. Very graphic.
Picked up a day ticket for a tenner, front row. Fantastically staged, weird no doubt, but great acting and very in your face, and thank god no singing!
Never read the book, thought it was tedious, boring and confusing at parts. Well staged and acted but if you haven't read the book you will find it hard to understand what is going on.
Still brilliant and better than at the Almeida. Sam Crane is a fantastic Winston, where the bloke they had before felt a bit mechanical. A life changing evening of theatre.
Got out of the theatre this evening and rang my 18 year old son to tell him to see this show. Its 101 minutes with no interval. Its gripping, thought provoking, visually stunning and (for me at least) so much better than most shows in town.
Good adaptation of a difficult book to deliver on the stage, which ultimately transfers well (2 minutes hate and Room 101 in particular). The lighting and the sound create the atmosphere needed. Don't need to have read the book to enjoy it. Recommended.
circle tickets are slightly restricted view, with the screen cut off
slightly. This doesn't have much of an impact though, as the stage is
still in full view.
Tries to be very clever, but fails at many of the basics in the process. Underpowered performances, lacklustre direction and a messy script.
A dreadful mess. Confused, sensationalist and pretentious, The only good thing was it made me want to have a look at the book again. In fact, before long I was wishing I was curled up at home reading it rather than watching this clunking production.
Have you read 1984? I bet you have, but if you can find someone who hasn't, I'd like to know what they thought about the play. Of course, you know what is in room 101, but that doesn't make it any less terrifying, especially when *spoilers* Winston makes a plea to the audience to help him. *end of spoilers*. The two minutes hate is as powerful as anything I have seen on stage. Excellent production, maybe a tad bit slow going at the beginning, but that is not diminishing to how it hopeless and futile it makes you feel by the time the last words are spoken.