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March, 2003
Review: 1984
Brutality and horror uncovered in 1984.

Miriam Quick discovered a horrific world of torture and totalitarian control in Aidan Elliott's adaptation of George Orwell's 1984.

It was a harrowing play that packed a punch.

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1984
March 11-16
Old Fire Station Theatre, Oxford

By Miriam Quick

Taking on one of the 20th century's best-known novels is a brave task.

George Orwell's terrifying dystopic vision in 1984 - a world of doublethink, Big Brother and Room 101 - casts a huge shadow over modern culture. What is there to add? Perhaps nothing.

This adaptation by Aidan Elliott resists the temptations of political or social allegory and sticks to the text.

Unfortunately, 1984 was not written for the stage. At times, the script feels threadbare and 'abridged', while Elliott's laudable attempt to preserve content nevertheless tends to cause rather numerous, and distracting, scenery changes.

The acting is competent, often impassioned. Winston (Richard Power) is a convincing wreck, a perpetually paranoid, twisted knot of fear and loathing of the party, while Julia (Lauren Stephenton) is all sparky cynicism and flirty female charm, until her horrific capture by the Tthought police. Mark Grimmer pulls off O'Brien with credibility intact.

The characters are unsubtle and one-sided, but then 1984's strength lies not in its love story or dialogue, but in the comprehensively horrific detail of its world of torture and totalitarian control, a world in which humanity's finer aspects are lost. In pain, everyone screams the same. It is this wider aspect that is so difficult to portray.

Elliott's production adds some powerful touches: giant billboards of party slogans, voiceovers and creatively filmed sequences displayed on a huge projector screen that dominates the stage, the all-seeing eye of the telescreen.

Visually it packs a punch, and a play based on 1984 can scarcely fail to be harrowing. But it says little new. Expect nothing more or less than homage to the novel.


Time: 19:30 plus Sat mat 14:30
Tickets: £8.50 (concs £6.50)

Old Fire Station Theatre
40 George Street, Oxford
OX1 2AQ
Tel: 01865 297 170

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