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O’Brien blithely negates humanity, morality and justice.
It's not that resistance is futile—it’s an anathema.
And then there is the assault on the soul, with the show depicting the bludgeoning of democracy and plain humanity.
It is all hard to take — and you have to wonder how the magnetic Tom Sturridge, who bears the brunt of the attacks, can go through this eight times a week — but then there is no other way to do justice to George Orwell’s landmark 1949 novel.
The book has encountered renewed popularity over the past few months: Many people feel that a novel describing a dystopian world where reality is denied is apropos when an adviser to the president mentions “alternative facts.” Adapted and directed by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, this “1984” uses a framing device inspired by Orwell’s appendix to his book.
We are around 2050 and a handful of people are reading and commenting on the decades-old diary of Winston Smith (a fully committed Sturridge), which has become a testament to a defunct totalitarian regime. Has the ruling party actually fallen or is it all a figment of Winston’s imagination?
But this love affair, with its tentative blandishments of spontaneity and freedom, is from its beginning as doomed as a robin with a broken wing.
Apparently, audience members have fainted during the show, and why becomes obvious in this 100-minute, intermission-less production.
What Orwell wrote in 1949, when the book was first published, about a dictatorship in extremis may still seem excessive, but it also sadly seems not too wild an extrapolation.
Smith’s torture at the hands of O’Brien and his faceless, chem-accident-suited goons is tough and awful to watch.
In the fabled torture chamber Room 101—here a white-walled chamber—Winston’s teeth are bloodily extracted, and head blasted. But about to be cured.”Around me, audience members shifted uncomfortably as more and more violence was meted out to Sturridge.
The adaptation, which premiered in the United Kingdom in 2013, is an assault on the senses, with the audience subjected to blasts of deafening sounds and blinding lights.
A man is shot in the head (in a video close-up) and the final torture scene may rattle the most hardened theatergoers.