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A ballet version of ‘1984’ is streaming for free – and it’s great

You’ve never seen George Orwell’s dystopian novel performed like this.

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

Worried your annoying neighbours might dob you in for a lockdown crime you haven’t committed? Scared about what’s going to happen to your personal health data over the coming months? In these uncertain times, the prescient details of George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ feel more contemporary than ever.

Of course, you may know how it all pans out in Room 101 already. But for a truly one-of-a-kind spin on this dystopian novel par excellence, the UK’s Northern Ballet has just made its critically approved 2016 adaptation available to stream online on a pay-what-you-feel basis. Slick, stylish and unsettling, it could well change the way you see ballet.

If you’re not yet familiar with the story, the protagonist Winston Smith (played here by Tobias Batley) lives in a world where all actions and even language are controlled by an all-powerful regime, and the Thought Police crack down on ‘thoughtcrime’ in every form. Then he falls in love with a fellow dissenter…

In this adaptation, a troupe of grey-clad proles, choreographed by former Royal Ballet dancer Jonathan Watkins, flutter beneath the ominous projected eyes of Big Brother. A dark score from Tony-nominated Alex Baranowski enhances its most chilling moments. And through all the menace and gloom, Batley makes a compelling anti-hero.

Part of a digital lockdown season that also includes an adaptation of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ for the BBC, the Leeds-based Northern Ballet is streaming ‘1984’ on YouTube until May 3. The company’s dance film ‘EGO’ is streaming online now, and its acclaimed adaptation of ‘Dracula’ will also be available for free in the UK over the coming weeks. Whoever said going to the ballet had to mean seeing your umpteenth ‘Swan Lake’?

More things to do at home?

Catch a hit play from London’s National Theatre

Stream a DJ set from one of Berlin’s coolest clubs

Check out a classic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical

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