The West End is full of timeless shows, but very few can claim to get more relevant.
George Orwell’s 1984 stands alone in that regard, foretelling geo-political events and socio-economic attitudes towards them with increasing accuracy as the years pass. The last time I saw the show it was Edward Snowden’s surveillance disclosures and the obvious Big Brother implications of NSA and GCHQ data leaks, but this time my mind just unravelled with current connotational events.
The aftermath of the Turkish uprising is so politically aligned to Orwelian dictatorship prophesies it may as well carry a byline, the political exclusion of the working class – or Proles – backfired dramatically in Brexit and all this on a micro level compared to the ideological warfare between superpowers and organised religious groups that threatens to disable the world order.
A good time, therefore, to catch the third run of 1984 at the Playhouse Theatre following a sell-out international tour. The Almeida Theatre production, adapted by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, takes a cleverly conceived approach with the small cast doubling up as academics of the future analysing Winston from the inside of his own story, putting the protagonist under the microscope and accentuating his hellish journey.
Andrew Gower, playing Winston Smith, really brings this aspect to life. The scars of oppression are laid barefaced and the mental struggle of dealing with bitter isolation doused with sporadic moments of hope is brilliantly delivered, allowing the audience to experience the nightmarish state and by proxy relate it to society in 2016.
You feel frightened, you feel incensed, and you feel rather unnerved by the overarching question that the play seeks to pose; is this a dystopian prophesy, or are we actually living 1984?