Hugh Parker, left, and Bryan Probets star in shake & stir's production of 1984, coming to QPAC.
Hugh Parker, left, and Bryan Probets star in shake & stir's production of 1984, coming to QPAC. QPAC publicity

George Orwell classic coming to stage

BRISBANE-based theatre company shake & stir are reviving George Orwell's classic novel 1984.

The show, opening at QPAC August 16, features a modern setting for the dystopian look at the totalitarian regime ruling the fictional society of Oceania.

It's the second book by the acclaimed author the theatre company has adapted for the stage after putting on Animal Farm last year, and the first time 1984 has been staged in Australia.

"There are a lot of large concepts at play here," said actor Hugh Parker, who plays Inner Party member O'Brien.

"So much of it has come into the consciousness of today.

'The concept of Big Brother is watching you, two plus two makes five, being told what to think and how to think."

The British-born actor stars opposite Bryan Probets, who plays protagonist Winston Smith.

Parker hopes the play will introduce young theatre-goers to Orwell's work.

"They might sit and watch this and go 'oh that's where this comes from' and 'that's where this phrase comes from'," he said.

"A lot of Gen Y's think they're pushed around, but we're all extraordinarily free to make very broad choices."

He describes the novel as a "blank canvas" that, although published in 1949, can be set in any time.

"As far as Orwell was concerned it was a futuristic novel," he said.

"It has a kind of unworldliness to it, an untime to it."

The shake & stir production will feature a large digital backdrop.

"There's a lot of technology being used," Parker said.

"There's a lot of very clever trickery for us to multi-purpose as many pieces of stage design as possible."

Parker said the cast has drawn heavily on the novel, or as he calls it "original source material", throughout rehearsals.

"We all have our copies of the novel in the room with us," he said.

"You can't let the fact that we're using such a famous book sort of dictate to you how you're going to play something, but we often find it a fantastic place to go back to whenever we find ourselves looking into a cul-de-sac."

The shadowy figure O'Brien initially befriends Winston, before later revealing himself as a Thought Police leader.

"O'Brien has his thinking and Winston has his," Parker said.

"It makes you wonder in a different time and place how they might have interacted together."

And how far will they take the scene where O'Brien tortures Winston in order to "convert" him back into society?

"Torture is about is trying to change someone's thinking," he said.

"We witness Winston's pain but we're not doing it in a gratuitous and violent way.

"I think there are subtle ways to do it. There will be a couple of key moments that might get people averting their eyes."

1984 opens at QPAC's Cremorne Theatre on August 16 and runs through September 1. Tickets start from $30.

To book go to www.qpac.com.au.



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