1984, Salisbury Playhouse

IT’S arguable whether George Orwell’s most revered book can really work on the stage, but there’s no doubt this adaptation at Salisbury Playhouse succeeded in capturing much of the raw power of the story.

Orwell’s chilling version of a dystopian future was written in 1948 and now projects haunting echoes of Soviet era secret police; some would say it proffers a grim warning as to where our current CCTV-obsessed society may be headed.

1984 has probably contributed more terms to the language than any other book of the 20th century – television has stolen and softened the impact of Big Brother and Room 101 – and it was indeed a stiff challenge for the touring Headlong and Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company to put on.

The play is not over-endowed with props and scene changes are virtually non-existent, but the clever technical team make excellent use of a massive TV screen, as well as dramatic lighting and sound effects.

It starts slowly, even gently, and for a spell I wondered whether my stamina would survive a 100-minute show with no interval, particularly as some of the dialogue was less than penetrating, even if the acting was impressive.

But as the story progressed and the tension mounted, we found ourselves immersed in the sinister world of The Party, and the full-on power of Orwell’s masterpiece shone through. The denouement was a very long way from gentle and was as thunderous and stunning as the great book deserved.

1984 runs until Saturday 12th October.



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