Gerogory Konow, Enid Cortes, Dustin Olson, Aaron Paternoster, Nick Paglino
Given the iconic status of George Orwell’s novel 1984 any stage production is bound be judged not just against the source material, but against one’s remembrance of the source material.
Godlight Theatre Company have done an excellent job of breaking through expectations and presenting the material in a fresh way that felt fully relevant to todays world.
For those with only a patchy recollection of their High School English assignments, 1984 is the story of one mans rebellion against a totalitarian state: a state that insists not just on managing your life, but your mind as well.
The hero, Winston Smith, loves who he choses and believes what he sees as truth. In living his life honestly, he becomes an outlaw of the state. The book introduced the concept of the always watching “Big Brother” and the idea of “newspeak” in which the very meanings of words are changed by the state.
Alan Lyddiard’s adaptation pares Orwell’s story down to its bare bones and its most basic concepts. Staged in the round with a minimal set and (very effective) harsh lighting effects, a degree of intimacy is created between the players and the audience, who cant easily look away.
The production reminded me of how relevant Orwell’s vision still is. When the novel was written, the boogiemen were communists and fascists; but the present rewriting the past, and the corruption and manipulation of words, these ideas are just as relevant now as they were 60 years ago. Perhaps more relevant. The single voice of the state has been replaced by a cacophony of voices from the media, the internet and politicians, but the twisting of words, the rewriting of history has become easier. I bring this up, because the book, and therefore the play, serve as a reminder to guard against this. Objectivite truth and reality are something to be protected. That the play reinforces this vital lesson, is probably some of the best praise I can give it.
The three leads, Gregory Konow as Winston, Enid Cortes as his young lover Julia, and Duston Olson as the state official OBrian were all excellent. However Joe Tantalo’s production moves at such a rapid pace that Winston and Julias relationship might have felt forced and artificial, were it not for the strength of the performances.
The clever set with its hovering low-drop ceiling allows light to pour onto the stage – a simple but powerful visual device. Less effective are the four women who talk at us from video screens in the corners of the stage. In the novel, these screens can never be turned off, and they operate as both projectors and cameras. On stage four similar looking severe women played these sinister figures, moving about the stage interchangeably, but they reminded me of nothing so much as the vividly lip-sticked girls in a Robert Palmer video and were a little distracting at times.
Despite this, there was much that was good and memorable about this production, especially the potent sense of foreboding and relevance that stayed with me for some time.