Ahead of the production coming to Sydney, we asked some of the cast of 1984 to reflect on the book, the play, the present day and what it all means to them.
What was your very first connection with 1984?
Guy O’Grady: I first listened to 1984 on audiobook when I was in school. Late one night, unable to sleep, I played the audiobook to help me relax – it didn’t. I lay in my bed wide-eyed, staring at the ceiling fan for hours, more agitated than before. I later made the same mistake with Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Fiona Press: As a hungrily devoured school text alongside Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. To a literarily precocious teenager who fancied herself a bit of a rebel, the concept of ‘dystopia’ seemed thrillingly cool.
How important do you think it is for audiences to see 1984 onstage now, in 2017?
Tom Conroy: Theatre is at its best when it speaks to the world around us. It feels like we’re all glued to our TVs and newspapers, unable to look away from the undeniably Orwellian developments in the USA. The Trump administration’s war on the media, and claims that any news source that disagrees with his lies are “fake news”, is some of the most astonishing use of doublethink. However, despite how close to the bone a lot of this play feels at the moment, theatre also has that wonderful function of acting as a balm for this feeling of fear and isolation; the act of gathering together for an hour or two to witness a story being told is a form of solidarity.
Yalin Ozucelik: Just in our own country, the retention of metadata, the denial of basic human rights to our refugees, the criminalisation of whistleblowers, the secret, sickening treatment of our youth in detention centres, among many other things, signal that the Orwellian portents of 1984 continue to haunt us. This stage production viscerally animates the nightmares of the book and urges us to remain vigilant and never silent.
What does 1984 mean to you?
Ursula Mills: It means a world in which society is constantly surveilled. Where our personal information is no longer personal. Where the assault of media, news and advertising have the power to manipulate the thoughts of the people. It’s the world we live in now; monitoring, voyeurism and scrutiny, all for the best interest of our ‘security’. It has always been relevant, however, societal awareness are making methods more transparent and less covert. We know that the Government are using technological companies as proxies to gain access to private information. Every time you log on to your computer you leave a digital footprint. We are completely integrated and connected, and that data is being harvested and shared. It’s terrifying.
Terence Crawford: How to be an individual. How to love. How to live together. These universal things are the ones that I respond to in the book, now liberated from the prophecy thing. And I think they supersede the Stalinist analogies too, the totalitarianism. To me, the totalitarianism is the context for these more fundamental questions.
Do you have a favourite Orwell quote?
Guy O’Grady: "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
Fiona Press: "By the time he is fifty, each man has the face he deserves."
1984, 28 Jun – 22 Jul 2017, Roslyn Packer Theatre
Seeing the show? Let us know your thoughts. Tag @sydneytheatreco and #STC1984