To anyone who's been paying attention, there's no need to point out the parallels between George Orwell's prescient 1949 work and the current use of technology and PSYOPS to control citizens everywhere. Thankfully, playwright Walter Newton and director Rick Bernstein have foregone a high-tech look and any references to Bush, Blair, 9/11 or anti-terrorism, setting this new adaptation in a period close to the original decrepit London.
To anyone who’s been paying attention, there’s no need to point out the parallels between George Orwell’s prescient 1949 work and the current use of technology and PSYOPS to control citizens everywhere. Thankfully, playwright Walter Newton and director Rick Bernstein have foregone a high-tech look and any references to Bush, Blair, 9/11 or anti-terrorism, setting this new adaptation in a period close to the original decrepit London. We have only the patina of telescreens and the ubiquitous pale blue jumpsuits of party members to remind us something insidious has happened to a once-thriving civilization.Concentrating on the relationship between Winston and Julia, Newton zeroes in on Orwell’s use of sex to express the ultimate rebellion against the party and Big Brother. But the script gets to the point too quickly, with the pair making plans after their first tryst (it took three in the book) to approach O’Brien about the secret Brotherhood. Given that the first act clocks in at a lean 53 minutes, the lack of buildup is glaring. However, Newton’s clever use of parallel interrogation and torture scenes in the second act make for a gripping climax to this classic tale of now-familiar Orwellian warnings and startlingly close-to-home examples of Newspeak propaganda. Bernstein’s choice of Dell Domnick and Julie Rada to play the weathered 39-year-old Ministry of Truth revisionist and the fair 26-year-old Anti-Sex League activist synch perfectly with Orwell’s characterizations. Dominick captures the spark of curiosity below the world-weary caution of Winston, despite the daily doses of news bulletins and Victory gin heavily etched on his grizzled countenance and slumping shoulders. Rada reminds us of how light and breezy Orwell had painted Julia, as she coyly captures Winston’s and our instincts with her animal magnetism and adventurous spirit. But it is the snuffing of Winston and Julia’s hope that ultimately delivers the urgency of Orwell’s message. Here, Paul Page, as O’Brien, manifests the full force of state terror with a frightfully remorseless and sadistic torture session in pursuit of Winston’s soul. Priscilla Young, double-cast as the trustworthy prole Mrs. Charrington and as O’Brien’s female interrogation counterpart, compounds the horror of this heinous split-screen scene with the sheer delight she exudes as her captive, Julia, is wracked with increasingly excruciating voltages. Sarah Roshan’s utilitarian B&W set and Jonathan Scott-McKean’s well-matched B&W video (of Emanuel Goldstein, war newsreel and the omnipresent Big Brother icon), accompanied by Paige L. Larson’s voiceovers, bear stark testimony to the relentlessly oppressive and barren psychological landscape of such a time when, as Julia says, “The rocket bombs which fell daily on London were probably fired by the government of Oceania itself, ‘just to keep people frightened.’”