1984 – 2nd June, Comedy Theatre

By Ben Madden | @benmaddentweets

Photo Credit: Shane Reid

It’s a testament to the cast and directors of the stage adaption of 1984, the dystopian George Orwell novel, that knowing the ending made it no less shocking. However, to solely mention the cast and directors would discredit the use of technology that made this play feel as contemporary as anything written today, despite the fact that the source material was written almost 70 years ago.

The play revolves around Winston Smith, played by Tom Conroy (check out Catalyst’s interview with Tom Conroy here) and his battle to bring down Big Brother and the Party – 1984’s ruling class. Falling in love with Julia, played by Ursula Mills, the play centres on their forbidden love – with some unfortunate surprises along the way.

Technology helped to invoke the visceral sense of fear that Winston himself was portraying on stage. Bright, flashing lights, as well as obnoxiously loud noises made one feel overwhelmed, and helped the audience to get inside the mind of Winston. The play also made the most of the space on stage, adapting the one set for use throughout the majority of the performance. This is where the use of a projector screen shone, with cameras being used to show action that was happening off stage.

Conroy’s Winston was a more youthful version than the one Orwell portrays.  Rather than the listlessness that is portrayed in the novel, the play’s portrayal almost carried with it a sense of naivety. Inevitably, this was his ultimate downfall. But rather than lessening the authenticity of the play’s adaption, it gave the story a different angle, as the relationship between Winston and Julia was youthful and lustful – as opposed to  the ageing relationship portrayed in the novel.

Overall, the play was an amazing experience, and one I would recommend to anyone to see during its run. Taking on a book that is revered by so many is no small feat.  The audience were applauding for near on 5 minutes, thus demonstrating the quality of the adaption, and the quality of the performances delivered by the cast. Orwell fans will find a lot to love about the performance, and for those that have never read 1984, the story will engross you. Definitely check it out before 10 June, the closing night. If you don’t, Australia could just find itself in a 1984-esque situation in the future.


You can see Tom in 1984 at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, May 31 to June 10; Lyric Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane, June 14 to 18; Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney, June 28 to July 22; Canberra Theatre Centre, July 25 to 29 and His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth, August 4 to 13. Tickets available here.


Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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