Set book

9th March 2001 at 00:00
NINETEEN EIGHTY-fOUR. By George Orwell. Newcastle Playhouse.

In the past, people found out about Big Brother and Room 101 by reading Nineteen Eighty-Four. Now they are more likely to discover both through television programmes named after them.

The book, published in 1949, is set in a nightmare totalitarian state, in which Winston Smith, who longs for truth and decency, finds himself arrested following a brief affair with Julia. After torture and brainwashing, he finally accepts the system.

Director Alan Lyddiard, who also staged Animal Farm, says of his adaptation: "Nineteen Eighty-Four is a fable, an allegory that remains relevant at a time when our own private spaces have shrunk, with surveillance cameras, mobile phones and satellite dishes tracking our every move.

"I also love Orwell's idea of the lottery - his proles are happy because they have a lottery, even if no one ever wins. Orwell wrote the book not because he was pessimistic, but as a warning.

"I've concentrated on two love stories: between Winston and Julia, and between Winstn and O'Brien, his torturer. These three characters are the core of the story." For dramatic coherence, he has left out the Parsons family, Winston's neighbours.

At first, Winston "hates Julia, but then falls in love with her, although the state prevents them having an affair. He falls in love with O'Brien when he thinks he has all the answers. For his part, O'Brien falls in love with Winston - he wants to make him love the party."

Winston "has a rather strange relationship with women. When he first meets Julia, he wants to smash her head with a cobblestone. He wants to rape her. But Julia's love seems to heal him."

Equally important to the production is Mark Murphy of V-Tol Dance Company, who filmed a cinematic backdrop to the play in Moscow (with its Stalinist architecture), and John Alder's music (which develops themes from Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring). "At the moment Winston admits he loves Big Brother, spring blossoms around him," says Lyddiard.

Aleks Sierz

From March 16 to April 7, then touring. Tickets: 0191 230 5151

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