1984 | shake & stir theatre coPhoto – Dylan Evans

Brisbane’s shake & stir theatre co cement themselves as masters of adaption with 1984, the 2012 production remounted this year for a four state tour and currently playing at QPAC in Brisbane.

1984 is the chilling tale of a not-so-far-fetched dystopian society, built on a history of ever re-written lies and an oppressed underclass of terrified workers. Adapted from George Orwell’s novel of the same name, the story follows Winston Smith as he tries to evade his watchful colleagues, the brutal Thought Police and the omniscient Big Brother.

Without fail, shake & stir work excellently as an ensemble in each production they deliver, and the story is no different for 1984. While the actors in the lead roles are outstanding, Ross Balbuziente and Nick Skubij carry the show on the backs of their multiple, more minor characters. They each find great depth within these characters; exposing the humanity, humour and horror in each, which allows the audience to enter into the world of Oceania and truly see a reflection of themselves there.

Bryan Probets is breathtaking as Winston Smith, his skeletal frame filled with warring senses of delicacy and volatility. For the majority of the piece, Nelle Lee’s Julia is a welcome pause from the horror on stage. Warm and vivacious, she provides the hope that carries both Winston and the audience through the story; however there is some lack of chemistry between the two characters which makes their love story not quite ring true.

The concept and the language of 1984 are what make it such a vital and confronting piece of work as a novel, and while these elements must be attributed to Orwell, shake & stir and director Michael Futcher have bought this tale to life with horrifying clarity. While technologically the production is epic, with multiple television screens covering the back wall of the theatre and a soundtrack which invades the ears like Big Brother is trying to invade minds, it’s the finer details which really give this show its chilling edge. The completely useless yet totally precious golden coral paperweight, the rats, Obrien’s soft hand lain with a contradictory gentleness on Winston’s head. There’s been a great deal of care taken in the direction of this piece to preserve and highlight these tiny moments, and build them up into an emotive and effective piece of theatre.

1984 is a hard-hitting piece of theatre that brings everything to the table and delivers. shake & stir theatre co should be commended on another fantastic adaption, and audiences should be flocking to fill those seats not already booked for a tale that’s just as relevant now as it ever was before.

shake & stir theatre co and QPAC present
by George Orwell | adapted and created by shake & stir theatre co

Director Michael Futcher

Venue: Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, Cultural Precinct, Brisbane
Dates: 15 July – 2 August 2014
Bookings: qpac.com.au | 136 246