George Orwell’s seminal novel 1984 is suddenly more relevant than ever and, in a stroke of synchronicity, the casting for the Australian tour of the West End smash hit production has been announced on the same day that a Broadway season of the production has been confirmed. These announcements come as sales of Orwell’s book surge in the days since President Donald Trump took office in the US, with his office coining the phrase ‘alternative facts’.
Tom Conroy will play Winston in the Australian season starring alongside a cast of some of Australia’s best stage actors. Paul Blackwell, Terence Crawford, Ursula Mills, Renato Musolino, Guy O’Grady, Yalin Ozucelik and Fiona Press will play major seasons in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Perth over a four month period.
One of Australia’s actors on the rise and currently starring in Belvoir’s production of Jasper Jones, Tom Conroy says that to play the lead role as Winston couldn’t be more relevant than now. Tom Conroy said “‘I’m thrilled and, if I’m completely honest, a little nervous to be stepping into the role of Winston Smith. He’s one of the 20th century’s great literary anti-heroes.”
“One of the things that I love about this adaptation is that Macmillan and Icke have beautifully created a complex character who goes on a tremendous journey. I have an enormous amount of empathy for his frustration, wavering optimism, and determination to do something and be somebody. In today’s post-truth world, where ‘alternative facts’ are being openly used by the US state, I can’t think of a better play to have on our stages right now.” added Conroy.
Set in a world where an invasive government keeps a malevolently watchful eye on its citizens, this radical and richly praised staging explores surveillance, identity and why Orwell’s vision of the future is as relevant now as ever. It is a timely reminder of the dangers posed by the digital age and society’s subconscious cooperation in the invasion of our own privacy.
With a superbly conceived adaptation of Orwell’s classic novel, brilliant use of multimedia and striking designs, this depiction of a world in which Big Brother is always watching, repression routine and love forbidden, is breathtaking and incendiary.
The Olivier Award nominated production, featuring a much-lauded adaptation and direction by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, and produced by British theatre innovators Headlong, the Almeida Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse, has also been confirmed to open on Broadway in June with an American cast.
1984 has been a theatrical phenomenon and has been seen by over 400,000 people worldwide, with three hugely successful seasons in the West End, extensive UK and US touring and international festival appearances, including a totally sold-out season at the 2015 Melbourne Festival.
Published in 1949, 1984 is one of the most in influential novels of all time, with its depiction of perpetual war, pervasive government tracking, mind control and the corruption of language and history. Its ideas have become our ideas, and Orwell’s fiction is often said to be our reality. Many of the terms coined by Orwell in the book have entered the English language, with the entity of Big Brother becoming one of the most iconic literary inventions and potent symbols of the 20th century.
“A superbly handled multimedia speculation on the nature of truth that never lets the audience off the hook.” – The Guardian UK
1984 will open at Adelaide’s Her Majesty’s Theatre (13 – 27 May), before playing Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre (31 May – 10 June), Brisbane’s Lyric Theatre – QPAC (14 – 18 June), Sydney’s Roslyn Packer Theatre (28 June – 22 July), Canberra Theatre Centre (25 – 29 July), and Perth’s Her Majesty’s Theatre (4 – 13 August). For more information, visit: www.1984play.com.au for details.
Image: 1984 – photo by Manuel Harlan