1984, Nottingham Playhouse, review

1984 Nottingham PlayhouseNottingham Playhouse is a venue for world class theatre in Nottingham and I’ve been lucky to have seen some wonderful theatre there lately. They are currently hosting an adaptation of 1984 that will blow your mind.

For those not familiar with George Orwell’s 1984, I’ll set the scene:

The clock strikes thirteen as Mark Arends’s Winston sits alone at a table, daring to write a diary. Around him a book group is discussing his actions as though they were fictional.

It’s 2050 and the past is erasable at the touch of a key, life can be wiped out by one press of a button, no longer traceable.  For the academics discussing Winston’s diary, life is on a perpetual loop of repetition.

Back in 1984, Winston and Julia push the boundaries and dare to believe they are free from Big Brother, free from surveillance.

The staging of this production is spell-binding. Orwell’s narrative takes hold as if it is recorded. There are sudden freezes, silences acted with accuracy and precision.The haunting signature sound of “Oranges and Lemons” echoes throughout the play.

The play has been criticised for the absence of some of the book’s most memorable aspects but having not previously read the novel, I didn’t miss a thing. The large tv screen, the frozen time, the backstage room, the bloodied and eery rat scene all had me entranced. An ingenious video design by Tim Reid provides thrilling additions – something I’ve not experienced in a stage production before and it had me gripped. We get to right into Winston’s head and can’t help but question the parallels of a the novel with the reality of today. What we see is a contradiction which we must decipher.

1984 in production

1984 in production. Photo by Tristram Kenton

Mark Arends gives an energetic and compelling performance as Winston. He morally clings on to his beliefs, to what he knows to be true before facing the chilling horrors of Room 101. The final scenes really are the stuff of nightmares.

Mark Arends is supported beautifully by Hara Yannas as Julia, but for Mark Arends stole the show. What an all encompassing performance he gave!

Whether you’ve read the book or seen the play before, this adaptation and production is like nothing else you will have seen. The audience was so gripped by the end, we weren’t even sure the play had finished and were delayed in giving our rapturous applause. This is truly edge of seat stuff and not to be missed.

1984 continues at Nottingham Playhouse, September 18-28, then touring until November 16

George Orwell (novel), Robert Icke, Duncan Macmillan (adaptation)
Robert Icke, Duncan Macmillan
Headlong, Nottingham Playhouse
Mark Arends, Tim Dutton, Hara Yannas, Stephen Fewell, Christopher Patrick Nolan, Gavin Spokes, Mandi Symonds, Matthew Spencer
Running time:
1hr 40mins
Tour includes:
Playhouse Oxford
October 1- 5
Playhouse Salisbury
October 8-12
Warwick Arts Centre Coventry
October 15-19
Richmond Theatre Richmond-upon-Thames
October 22-26
Playhouse Liverpool
October 29-November 2
Sherman Cymru Cardiff
November 5- 9
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Courtyard Leeds
November 12-16


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