A Northern Broadsides / Dukes Lancaster Production in Association with the Ruscombe-based Stroud Theatre Company presented GEORGE ORWELL’S 1984 at the Tobbaco Factory in Bristol (see photo). See original post here and preview video here.
This was a wonderfully innovative production with 7 flickering TV screens and all the essence and depth of the book....chilling is not the word - it was deeply, deeply disturbing - and magnificent! This is the novel in a visual form that is in many ways more disturbing than the book - or is it just that my school days reading of the book has dimmed? I was expecting to be unsettled but this went further....we follow Winston's hope only to be dashed....oh for a little more hope in Orwells story....
The Stage wrote: "One of the most disturbing elements about any revival of George Orwell’s once bleakly futuristic vision of totalitarianism is just how much of what he viewed as unthinkably awful now seems almost mundanely acceptable....Haverson brilliantly executes the transformation of Winston - from curious to love struck, and from enlightened to brutalised. The torture scenes are as effective as they are disturbing. Again not surprising to 2010 eyes but none the less a vision of something even Orwell may have blanched at."
Winston was indeed brilliantly played, as were all the cast - and indeed the set and amazing graphic film that enhanced the whole experience.
As The Guardian review commented "Many of the book's broader predictions – Big Brother, Newspeak, Room 101 – have become common currency. Watching Nick Lane's adaptation you are struck by how many smaller details Orwell also foresaw: a state-run lottery, shoot-'em-up movies, and a two-year wait for a plumber."
Carolynne on ScanOnline reviewed making a similar point: "As Northern Broadsides began their run of 1984 at The Dukes in Lancaster, I could not help feeling Orwell’s words are often ringing true today: Guantanamo Bay, waterboarding, the War on Terror and the use of the media for propaganda by governments across the globe all serve as a stark reminder of Orwell’s nightmare....Turning from the play itself to its relevance today, more than 60 years since Orwell’s original novel was penned, our leaders, following the defeat of Nazism, Fascism and totalitarian Communism, would have us believe that utopia is in sight. Francis Fukuyama wrote that we are all headed on a wagon train to a liberal democracy utopia. Looking through the news and at events, injustices and inequities across the globe, I doubt them very much. So, I believe, would Orwell. After all as he put it when Winston is tortured in Room 101 by his captors “we do not seek to destroy our enemies, we seek to change them”. Echoes of enforced economic liberalism and the current chaos in Iraq anyone?"
Indeed I have to note being shocked by Bush openly saying this last month that he supported 'waterboarding' - a practice widely used in interrogation - yet it was a crime under US and international law - British officials at least dismissed his claim that there was any evidence that the practice saved lives. Worrying though is that Obama has chosen not to investigate - although at least has ended the practice. Also the CIA officers who destroyed the latest lot of evidence 'torture' tapes will not be charged. What sort of world is this?
However we can at least welcome the abolition of ID cards - although the Deputy Prime Minister has proposed that from 2014 all voters will have to register themselves, providing "signature, national insurance number and date of birth", converting the current electoral roll into a centralised population register little different in principle to the ID scheme database. No2ID comment: "Systematic abuse of the existing electoral roll already discourages registration and facilitates fraud; sucking up even more personal information can only make this worse. And what other purposes will be found for the new system? History has shown how such bureaucratically-driven registers, and their uses and abuses, only expand over time. Just as worrying are the 'cross-matching' powers to be given to local authorities to track down the unregistered. With echoes of Clause 152 - the Ministry of Justice's blatant attempt to "overcome the barriers to information sharing across the public sector" which NO2ID helped defeat in 2009 - these new powers would overturn the fundamental data protection principle that information gathered for one purpose may not be used for another without consent. Individual voter registration does not require a centralised database, any more than ID ever did. The government should be reining in mass data-snooping, not extending and encouraging it. And, given that voting is voluntary, why should councils spend money chasing people onto the electoral roll who don't want to be there? Will forcing people to register make them more or less likely to vote?"
While on database state stuff - as noted on this blog the new government pledged to scrap the Summary Care Records but has since broken that pledge and is continuing the SCR roll-out. However a welcome goes to the proposals to require the consent of both parent and child before any fingerprint can be taken by a school. Although I find it extraordinary that we have now reached a place where schools are fingerprinting children as young as five re attendance, school meals, library books and more - should we really be subjecting children to the dehumanising effects of fingerprinting from such an early age. Two years ago, more than a third of local authorities and 26 schools were using biometric data systems and it is understood even more have introduced them since or are planning to. A local nursery has fingerprinting technology for use with parents - see here - and see here a letter to local press in 2007 about the 29 of our 287 County schools fingerprinting pupils then!
Terry Dowty, of campaign group Action on Children’s Rights, said: “We are conditioning our children to accept a surveillance society. If they grow up thinking it is all right, in future years the boundaries will be eroded even further. We are on a very slippery slope.”
Lastly it was only a couple of weeks ago that I read that while you watch screens, screens will watch you - see computerworld here: "Orwell's telescreens served as an instrument of government propaganda and control. In our world, such technology exists, but starting next year it will serve the purpose of Huxley's Soma: to entertain, pacify and encourage consumption."
Talking of which see here my previous blog entry on Aldous Huxley vs George Orwell.But hey to get back to the play - it was great but sadly that was the last show of the current tour but am sure it will pop up somewhere else? I hope so as it is worth the watch but not for the faint-hearted.