After last year’s hilarious and triumphant farce, Gogol’s ‘Government Inspector’, Loreto’s Drama department opted for a complete change of mood this time round, with their presentation of George Orwell’s dystopian classic ‘1984.’
This adaptation of the play cleverly uses the appendix of the original novel and recreates it as a book club, debating the academic and philosophical elements of the story. We then witness the rebellion, betrayal and ultimate destruction of ‘Everyman’ Winston Smith, crushed by Big Brother and the power of the state. Directors Danny Price and Helen Sherwood, ably assisted by Eve Peden, made a conscious decision to adopt a minimalist approach to the staging of the production: props and costumes were pared down to the basics, with a large ‘chorus’ ever present on stage and feeding the pervasive paranoia of Oceania. Danny Price feels that this approach engendered a fascinating collaborative attitude during the rehearsal process, observing that “…rehearsals have been a playground of creativity and have relied heavily on the students’ imaginations and ability to create and reflect, letting them take a lead and experiment with theatrical devices…”
The excellent ensemble work of the chorus was testimony to the effectiveness of this unusual approach, which additionally served to complement the magnificent performances of Alex Moran, Annie Rogers and Dalumuzi Moyo, as Winston Smith, Julia and O’Brien respectively. Alex Moran was a totally convincing Winston, struggling to come to terms with the bleak realities of life in Oceania, clutching desperately at the prospect of something better, before the final destruction of all hope. Annie Rogers as Julia was the perfect embodiment of that prospect before she too was crushed and defeated. Dalumuzi Moyo was superb as O’Brien: manipulative, conniving, ingratiating and brutal in equal measure, his final scene with Winston brought the production to a stunning and dramatic climax.
As ever the technical aspects of the production were handled with great aplomb by Tony Fennell, assisted by Thomas Leonard, with lighting and sound providing the perfect context for Orwell’s salutary tale. The sell-out audiences on both nights will have left the theatre impressed mightily by the performances and perhaps just a little unsettled by the nature of the message conveyed.