Be sure to let Grandma know: This ain’t The Music Man. There are no elaborate dance sequences, no bright costumes, no flash cans, or glitter cannons in this stage adaption of George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984, currently open on Broadway. But there will be blood. Lots and lots of blood. And just days into its official run at the Hudson Theatre, the intensity of this production — which stars Olivia Wilde — is already setting it apart from its sugary sweet counterparts on the Great White Way, provoking an entirely different reaction than Broadway audiences are accustomed.
So long, singing along to your favorite show tunes and clapping together in unison. Hello, screaming, vomiting, and fainting!
Now, we know 1984 isn’t exactly a feel-good story.
Set in the future, the novel imagines a society strangled by totalitarian rule where critical thought can get you killed. But this production of 1984, a London transfer directed by dynamic duo Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, is some next level sh*t.
Featuring depictions of graphic violence and stomach-turning torture, made more frightening with the addition of strobe light effects and the sounds of jackhammering, 1984 is not here to make you feel comfortable — especially given the prescient novel’s real-life parallels.
“We’re not trying to be willfully assaultive or exploitatively shock people, but there’s nothing here or in the disturbing novel that isn’t happening right now, somewhere around the world: people are being detained without trial, tortured and executed,” the show’s co-director Macmillan told The Hollywood Reporter. “We can sanitize that and make people feel comforted, or we can simply present it without commentary and allow it to speak for itself.”
It looks like Macmillan’s vision may be realized. During the production’s previews, theatre-goers passed out, threw up, and screamed at the actors from their seats. Cops were even called following a particularly nasty argument that broke out mid-show. In order to manage the reactions, security guards have been positioned in and around the theatre for the audience’s and actors’ safety. How Big Brother of them! Plus, a minimum age requirement — of 13 — has been implemented for future shows.
“You can stay and watch or you can leave — that’s a perfectly fine reaction to watching someone be tortured. But if this show is the most upsetting part of anyone’s day, they’re not reading the news headlines,” said co-director Icke. “Things are much worse than a piece of theater getting under your skin a little bit.”
For now, Big Brother is watching you!