1984 – reviews of Almeida's 'bold' staging of Orwell's novel

Feb 18, 2014

An 'ingenious' stage adaptation of Orwell's dystopian classic reminds us of its chilling relevance

Tristram Kenton
What you need to know

A new stage adaptation of 1984 at the Almeida Theatre, London, has wowed critics with its "bold" and "ingenious" retelling of George Orwell's classic dystopian novel. The adaptation from Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan is a co-production between the Almeida, Headlong and the Nottingham Playhouse.

Orwell's novel, written in 1948, was set in an imagined 1984 where Britain has become as an oppressive surveillance state. The story follows Comrade Winston Smith as he commits the subversive acts of thinking, writing a diary, and falling in love, under the ominous gaze of Big Brother. Stars Mark Arends. Runs until 29 March.

What the critics like

"This stunning play is both a bold reinvention of George Orwell's great post-war novel and remarkably faithful to it," says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. It is a chilling, relentlessly ingenious 100 minutes that pulls off the difficult task of making something vividly dramatic from a novel of ideas.

Icke and Macmillan have "pulled off something tremendous", says Susannah Clapp in The Observer. Their highly imaginative production has elements of horror and of trance and doesn't just update the play but shows the past and future, the actual and the virtual, constantly colliding.

This is "a rigorous and prodigiously confident reimagining of Orwell's dystopian nightmare", says Henry Hitchings in the Evening Standard. This harrowing new adaptation is faithful to the spirit of Orwell while finding fresh ways of exploring the significance of 1984.

What they don't like

Critics have almost nothing negative to say about this production of 1984, though the Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer admits the show brings the Orwellian nightmare so vividly alive that there are moments where it's "almost too harrowing to watch".

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Hope the producers bring it to the States.