(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 12/11.)

1984: BAC, review

Mark Down’s '1984' is a weird, feel-good delight. Rating: * * * *

Laughing during George Orwell’s dystopian nightmare? Is that allowed? It’s certainly not usual, but then there’s nothing conventional or tried-and-tested about Blind Summit’s staging of a book which, 60 years ago, defined the dread of the Cold War era and put its author in the pantheon of 20th century greats. This must rank as the most perverse choice ever for a Christmas show but it works (just) because the whole thing is mounted in a winning spirit of experimental subversion so that, in its own theatrical way, it matches the shock and the wit of the original. What should be the most depressing evening in town proves a weird, feel-good delight.

It’s often forgotten that Nineteen Eighty-Four is saturated in the bitter vinegar of satirical pessimism, from the monstrous invention of Newspeak, with its insane mission to reshape all thought, to such razor-sharp details as the national Lottery, whose winners are non-existent. Stage-adaptations have to contend with the density of Orwell’s totalitarian London landscape as well as the interiority of Winston Smith’s journey towards betrayal, torture and rehabilitation – and can risk ending up too earnest by half. Not so here.


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