There is no freedom of expression. Individuality does not exist. The Inner Party harnesses supreme power, and there is no hope of toppling the government. Every action is recorded. Every thought is monitored. Through the production's powerful commitment to these dystopian ideals, George Orwell’s “1984” engulfs Lake Braddock High School’s theatre in suspense, panic, and eerie glorification of the almighty Big Brother.
Orwell’s work was first met with conflicting reviews; some critics disliked the dystopian satire of totalitarian regimes, bureaucracy, and nationalism, while others pilloried it as nihilistic prophesy on the downfall of humankind. Nevertheless, “1984” remains one of the world’s most widely read and quoted novels from the 20th century. It is set in Airstrip One, the former Great Britain, and follows the conflicted Winston Smith, a worker in the Outer Party of the government. The society Winston lives in is bombarded by propaganda that creates an idealized and worshipful image of Big Brother, the quasi-divine Party leader. As the story progresses, the plot explores Winston’s dreams of rebellion against Big Brother and the havoc that consequently ensues.
Working with an original adaptation of the book, the actors impressively memorized and perform complex monologues that intermittently span over twenty minutes. Carrying the plot, Liam Finn (Winston Smith) aptly expresses his character’s curiosity for the customs abolished by the Inner Party through enlivened body language. Finn notably displays the effort it takes for his character to control his emotions, which creates a powerful third act in Winston’s confrontation with Inner Party member O’Brien. Through variations in intonation and volume, Finn proficiently exhibits his character’s complex attitude toward the values in the dystopian society. As Julia, fellow Outer Party member and secret rebel, Marissa Chaffee not only displays one of the most commanding presences on stage, but also exhibits believable chemistry with Finn as they explore their forbidden relationship.
Levi Meerovich skillfully portrays the conniving, duplicitous O’Brien and additionally in carrying the third act through commitment to his elaborate and lengthy monologues. Meerovich exhibits composed, unhurried physicality to portray his role as an intimidating antagonist. Furthermore, Meerovich projects in an excellent British accent commonly associated with the higher class to communicate his status as an Inner Party member. As Martina, Jessica Novis effectively presents a tranquil, soothing voice perfectly suited for someone who is responsible with keeping control over the masses and manipulating their emotions. In one of the most gripping scenes of the performance, Nick Edwards (Bumstead) displays his prowess in portraying pain through excellent reactions to the guards’ physical abuse and a compelling vocal expression. During the two minutes of hate, the ensemble shows skill in performing the effects of mob mentality through riveting expressions of anger and chanting.
The technical aspects of the production greatly enhance the dystopian setting and suspenseful atmosphere of the totalitarian government. The most prominently displayed technical element is the projection of the telescreen broadcasts onto a large box that looms over the stage. The projections feature live feed of actors and animations that help keep the audience engaged and visualize the extensive monologues. The lighting crew skillfully uses their cyc to create engaging silhouettes and respond promptly to cues. The costumes feature a handful of prominent uniforms that greatly enhance the lack of individuality in the society along with excellent wound make-up. The stage also features a versatile set that is quickly brought on and off by the running crew, along with detailed and efficient props such as the various cigarettes and live rats.
Through consistent energy and commitment, Lake Braddock High School effectively produces a suspenseful rendition of George Orwell’s “1984.” Big Brother is proud.