Big Brother is Watching

Saturday 11 September 2010

The world moves ever closer to George Orwell’s 1984. Actor Nick Haverson tells ELAINE SINGLETON how hi tech wizardry will bring the tale alive in 2010.

If it’s true that our concentration spans are getting ever shorter, then the latest production of Orwell’s 1984 in the county should be perfect for those with butterfly minds. Because The Dukes in Lancaster opens its autumn season with a powerful and tumultuous multi media mix of theatre live action, animation and film.

The characters portrayed by the actors on stage meld into cartoons of themselves enabling audiences to see inside the fantastical and terrifying images in the heads of those who play out their parts in George Orwell’s blistering vision of the future.

That animation features strongly within the production seems ever more apt when you meet actor Nick Haverson, who plays Winston, and who is incredibly animated in person.

Engaging, touchy feely and bearing an uncanny resemblance to Sting, Nick is a Norfolk country boy living out his acting life in London. He is on his first visit to Lancashire professionally and is keen to explore the Lakes if he gets any free time.

If he does, someone better alert the mountain rescue teams as so far his attempts at finding his way around his temporary home of Lancaster have ended in bewilderment.

“I have never got lost anywhere I have been before but Lancaster had me stumped. I couldn’t find my way back to my digs,” he said.

“I’d decided to go to Sainsburys but when I came out of the shop I was lost. I had my GPS with me but when I turned it on, it died.

That was it, I was lost. It’s all those winding roads and alleys.”

Now reunited with fellow cast members, Nick is well into rehearsals ready for the September 16 opening night of the production in which the Dukes has teamed up with nationally-acclaimed touring theatre company, Northern Broadsides.

All the actors have had their movements filmed so that animator Rob Pointon could translate them into drawings. The resulting cartoons are then seen by the audience as images that appear, then are rubbed out and reappear differently. History and fact are erased only to re emerge in a totally opposite direction.

As Orwell put in 1984, “War is Peace” “Freedom is Slavery” “Ignorance is Strength”. No matter what you believe happened and to be true, it will turn out that the opppsite really happened.
Themes from the novel have passed into modern parlance since it was published in 1949. Room 101 where you are tortured by your worst secret fears became a long running celebrity comedy show.

And of course Big Brother was watching our every move we even before the TV series became a worldwide hit, lauded and derided in equal measure.

Orwell would no doubt have been amazed at just how much of his story has become a reality or near reality in the 21st century. Via the cameras on our streets, shops and offices, we in the UK have become the most monitored people in the world.

Nick admits he had never read the book but, a long time ago, had seen one of the many film versions that have been made.

“Since I got the part I watched the film again but I was nervous about doing it. I didn’t want to be influenced by it.”

It was film and television acting, not the theatre, that first drew him towards the profession.

“I thought, I want to be a telly star. I love TV. I can do that. But then after I’d been to drama school I realised that I really like theatre. I think you can get so much more out of live theatre. No two shows are the same because each audience is different and each one reacts differently.

“I wanted to be a surgeon when I was at school but I quickly realised I wasn’t studious enough. I’d always loved films, the medium of drama but I’d never really been to the theatre and I never joined a youth group because I was too shy. I’d rather play rugby with my mates.

“When I was 12 I did a drama at school. I was talked into it by my teacher and was persuaded to be Mr Story Teller in the Snow Queen.

“Had she not pushed me I wouldn’t have carried on. I was amazed that as a 12 year old people were coming up to me and saying well done.”

The die was cast and the bug well and truly bitten and since leaving drama school 21 years ago the 42 year old has, unlike the majority of his profession, worked steadily ever since.

And in addition to theatre he has also worked in his original love of TV and film including Spooks and Ashes to Ashes and alongside international superstar Johnny Depp in Sweeny Todd directed by Tim Burton.

“I was a very small cog,” he grins.

1984 runs from Thursday September 16 to Saturday October 9. Tickets cost from £8 to £17.
To book at The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or