Although this is a truly fanatastic book it does not, in my opinion, lend itself to the stage. This is because one of the fundamental aspects of the world Orwell creates is that it lacks the colour, movement and variety that is the key to a good play. Also all the action in the plot is not easily adapted for the theater: both the sex and the torture and violence would run the risk of looking ridiculous rather than serious in a play.
The fact that I felt that cramming all of this great book in to a few hours on stage was all but impossible ment that when I saw the play advertised in the Theater Royal
I was somewhat surprised.
I still feel that the main reason the play was not a complete disaster was that "they" had also recognised the near impossiblity of staging this book. So rather than try to make it a traditional play and hope for the best they took a radically different approach.
The secret was in the set which consisted simply of two huge white walls on wheels. These could be placed next to each other to form one fifteen foot wall that spanned the whole stage or they could be arranged as a corridor, corner or two walls of a room. Each wall also had a door in it which when closed disapeared completely into the walls.
These walls were not however purely bits of scenery but could also serve as cinema screens. So that rather than have a crowd of proles on stage they simply projected a video clip of a crowd onto one or both of the panels.
This also meant that the cast could be kept a minimum with only six players.
Although when I first saw the video clips being projected onto the sceens I was unconvinced the idea grew on me throughout the performance as it allowed import features ot the book like Winston's diary and the way he writes in the dust to be shown clearly and easily.
While the idea was, as far as I was concerned, a good one the play was by no means perfect "they" fell into the fatal trap of relying too heavily on the special effects. At the beginning for example in a vague attempt to build up the atmosphere of the book the audience were subjected to a good twenty minutes of random clips of old people wandering around in a snow storm.
The ministry of love was also a bit overdone. The book managed to imply the horror and violence on Winstons torture without spending too long actually describing it. The play on the other hand went all out on the visual side and most of the torture scenes were so graphic that most of the people I asked couldn't watch all of them.
One other thing which I felt was detrimental to the play was the way in which the video was almost always running so that when the actors were on stage they were constantly competing with the video clips for the audience's attention.
The video was a little over used but the actual acting was all very good particularly O'Brian who was terrifing!
The script was also fairly good but the huge time limitations meant that some aspects of the story could not really be discussed in depth and this meant that the people I asked who hadn't read the book found the story a little hard to follow at times.
This writeup is perhaps a little on the negative side but I did enjoy the play and I would recommened it so long as you don't go expecting too much.