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  • Theatre, Drama
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. © Manuel Harlan
    © Manuel Harlan

    Andrew Gower

  2. © Manuel Harlan
    © Manuel Harlan

    Angus Wright

  3. © Manuel Harlan
    © Manuel Harlan
  4. © Manuel Harlan
    © Manuel Harlan

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Headlong's audacious re-working of Orwell's '1984' is great, queasy theatre.

This smart, menacing version of George Orwell’s dystopian novel is a shark of a show to find in the pleasureable shallows of the West End. It’s got serious bite, particularly if you happen to be suffering from political cynicism right now. 

George Orwell’s novel tells the story of Winston, an ordinary man living in a post-truth world where people, actions, language and even thoughts are controlled and when necessary deleted by the ruling party and their symbolic leader, Big Brother. Winston tries to rebel against the party and to create and record his inner life and a true record of his times. 

What’s brilliant about writer-directors Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s adaptation is that it’s completely centred on Winston’s increasingly nightmarish experience – and yet it uses that nightmarish state to introduce elements that heighten it and give us, in 2016, access to it from our present. That means that the small, flexible cast double up as academics of the future (which is styled like our past), analysing Winston from the inside of his own story. It also means that the moments that he thinks are most private – when he conducts a love affair in an offstage hideout – are filmed in the hidden camera style of ‘Big Brother’, and relayed to the audience on a big screen.

So many of the ideas in Orwell’s novel have become pop cultural cliches, but this feels fresh, tight, and horrifying. And it’s unlikely to be consigned to room 101 any time soon. ‘1984’ is currently on its third run at the Playhouse Theatre: a deadly chilling piece for dangerous times.

Written by
Caroline McGinn


Jun 14-28 £19.84-£75, Jun 29-Sep 3 £15-£85
Opening hours:
Jun 14-Sep 3, 7.30pm, Wed 2.30pm, from Jun 22, Thu 2.30pm, from Jun 30, Sat 2.30pm
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