Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Review: Blind Summit Theatre's 1984

Frankly, I do not remember the last time I saw such a good play, let alone one that was a fresh adaptation of the classic 1984. Cards on the table: I didn't think it was possible to make a satisfactory stage version of Orwell's classic; I was completely and utterly wrong.

The production was held in dingy Battersea at the BAC and is on until Jan. 9th, do go - you wont catch anything this good again for a long time, so don't miss it.

This is actually the second time I've seen a stage adaption of 1984, the last time was in the 90's and it was something that still has me seething with rage just to remember it. When you have people who can't act performing a version of a story written by someone completely at odds with the subversiveness of the material, well, it tends to get to me - and I only saw the first half.

This version was quite different. For a start, whilst there are deviations from the book they are uniformly improvements. That's right. Improvements. For example, whilst 1984 is a brilliantly written book... not many laughs in it are there? This play is bloody funny.

There are wonderful layers in the play with the cast playing an agit-prop troop of State sponsored actors playing the cautionary tale of two thought criminals with basic props and puppets. Yes that's right, I said puppets. Orwell forgot to write them in didn't he? Well Blind Summit Theatre have amended George's schoolboy error.

For a story that is centrally about the hidden inner life of party workers in a totalitarian state I think there are some elements that are very hard to bring to life outside of the pages of the book. The hate and love those workers feel for the party that defines them and deforms them simultaneously.

The way that sexuality and personal deviation become political by the very acts of making personal choices outside the realm of the social orthodoxy. How an insistence on controlling every aspect of someone's personal life turns the simple act of saying "I love you" into a world shattering act of rebellion.

I won't spoil the plot for you but I will commend the highly stylised performances of all the cast but particularly on the part of Gergo Danka (O'Brien) and Julia Innocenti (Julia). That said the puppet work and exciting use of visual effects illustrating the story telling was a real joy to behold.

If you'd have told me that the audience would have been rolling around laughing through much of the play I'd have been dubious to say the least - but it happened, and I don't think it detracted fromeither the seriousness of the material or the horrors of the second half.

Whether you have or have not read the book, and whether or not you liked it, if you can get to south London, go see this play - it's so, so good.


Alice said...

That sounds amazing! Is it likely to tour? I'm in Leeds and won't get down to London at least until I've recovered from xmas.

Jim Jay said...

Not sure as it looks like the theater company have a close relationship with the theater itself - but it should do because it was very, very good.