Northern Ballet stages George Orwell’s 1984

Northern Ballet stages George Orwell’s 1984

Robert Tanitch reviews 1984 at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London EC1.

1984 ballet 1

Dancers performing George Orwell’s 1984

“If you want a picture of the future,” said George Orwell, “imagine a boot on a human face – for ever.”

Jonathan Watkins’s ballet version for Northern Ballet has no boot and fails to capture the nightmarish horror of a totalitarian state exercising its brutal authority.

If you have read George Orwell’s novel, you are going to be very disappointed; and if you have not read the novel and not read the synopsis in the programme, you are going to have difficulty following the story-line.

The occasional sur-title might have helped. 101 figures large. The Ministry of Truth could have done with some large lettering. Video could have been used more.

If you have seen Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s radical stage version, you will appreciate just how far short this version falls. The Icke-Macmillan version is so popular it is coming back to the West End for yet another run.

Robert Tanitch Mature Times theatre reviewerThe ballet fails to make Big Brother frightening and O’Brien, Head of the Brotherhood, fails to make the impact he should. The psychological and physical torture Winston Smith suffers is too tame.

What is good about the production is Alex Baranowski’s score and what is good about the choreography is the aggressive body language for the Party Members. The duet for the half-naked Winston (Tobias Batley) and Julia (Martha Leebolt) when they go to the country for some secret sex is lyrical rather than lustful.

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