1984 (tour - Bury St Edmunds)

9 November 2010 by Anne Morley-Priestman

Orwell’s 1984 has become a classic in more than one way. Its bleak parable of Winston Smith, that less-than-innocent urban cog in a totalitarian wheel, has been adapted for the stage and film several times. Nick Lane's new version gives it a straightforward narrative illuminated by excellent performances and a quite brilliant design concept. It is an attention-riveting piece of pure theatrical magic.

We’re in a world of visual as well as moral distortion. The acting area is hedged in by grey shapes and screens – several sorts of screen. Designer Sue Condie, animators Rob Pointon, Karen Sayle and Louise Hodkiss with audio-visual designer David Phillips confront us with a kaleidoscopic succession of images. These reference the war art of Moore, Searle and Topolski as well as charcoal-sketched story-boards for printed and film cartoons. Yet they never detract from the five actors on stage, for the most part wearing simple dark boiler-suits.

Chris Garner & Nick HaversonChris Garner & Nick Haverson

The three dominating performances are, as they need to be, those of Nick Haverson as Wilson, Kate Ambler as Julia who he loves and ultimately betrays and Chris Garner as several-faced O’Brien. But director Conrad Nelson also brings Carolyn Tomkinson as the women in Winston’s fractured past and Andrew Price as the crumbling antique dealer Charrington into focus for their scenes.