Theatre review: 1984, Zoo

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IN 1948, George Orwell wrote his nightmare vision of being under the constant scrutiny of faceless bureaucrats.

It’s a world reduced to absolute governmental control over all areas of life, and the freedom to love, read and even think freely has been banished. Orwell shuffled the numbers of the year round and named his book 1984.

Many of the predictions made in his dystopian masterpiece have since come true: the rise of surveillance and CCTV, government spin, PR speak and so on.

Orwell even correctly predicted people’s addiction to a national lottery as well as describing the internet, though for some reason the passage didn’t make the book’s final draft.

Fortunately, he wasn’t such a clever clogs that he got everything right. Which is just as well, really, otherwise I wouldn’t be recommending that you catch Matthew Dunster’s powerful adaptation of 1984 before the end of its Fringe run (heck, there wouldn’t even be a Fringe!).

For those not familiar with the story, Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip 
One.

Big Brother stares out from every nook and cranny, and the Thought Police uncover each act of betrayal.

When Winston falls for Julia, he starts to discover that life doesn’t have to be dull and awakens to new possibilities.

Despite the police helicopters that hover overhead, the pair begin to question The Party.

Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind.

For those harbouring original thoughts they invented Room 101 – and you definitely don’t want to end up there.

Performed by a seven-strong ensemble, this is a polished production that packs a punch, just as any staging of 1984 should.

It opens with slick choreography, semi-naked bodies and live music.

Winston isn’t the most charismatic of literary characters, but Theo Gordon’s portrayal is brilliant.

Kath Hesketh is equally impressive as Julia, and Dan Addis suitably sinister as Winston’s chief tormentor, the devious O’Brien.

The cast are helped along by well-placed 
audio-visual efforts – the use of multimedia projections and a live orchestra greatly adding to the 
performance.

The Thought Police would strongly object, but EmpathEyes Theatre Company’s deeply relevant production of 1984 will send your mind into overdrive.

Rating: * * * *

• Until Monday

GARY FLOCKHART