Urban Myth Theatre of Youth @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)
11:30am, Thu 6 Mar 2008
Occasionally, I’ll see a piece of art – a painting, a movie, some theatre – that is so utterly, utterly wonderful that my immediate response is to hate and revile the creator – because I become so completely overwhelmed by intense feelings of envy towards them for being able to (for all I know) effortlessly create such goodness.
That’s how I feel about the director of this production of 1984, Edwin Kemp-Attrill.
This young chap has taken Orwell‘s most famous work and placed in onstage with such a holistic clarity of vision that it’s almost breathtaking. Honestly, if a theatrical neophyte like me can look at this work and think “damn, that direction is good“, it must be pretty stand-out.
And it is… lighting, staging, and the overall feel of the piece is superb; and, while it might have been nice to see a bit more of the Proles, Gemma Sneddon’s adaptation of the novel is satisfyingly bleak. The costumes are beautifully refined, the set sublime in its simplicity, the projections poignant without being overpowering.
It’s not a perfect production, by any means – as with most youth productions, some of the performances are a little wooden. This is more than offset, however, by the actresses(!) playing O’Brien – another directoral success – and Big Brother herself, perfect harsh eyebrows and chillingly cheerful demeanor. Coddling his journal like a timid emo bookworm, Winston Smith is also perfectly cast.
But, as you might have guessed from my opening paragraphs, 1984‘s triumph is in its presentation. There’s simply not a single directoral mis-step. Yes, I envy Kemp-Attrill immensely for having the gall to have such an exceptional eye at the age of 20; but I swear I’ll pencil in every show his name is associated with in the future.
Interestingly, as I was leaving the theatre, Kemp-Attrill was addressing the school groups for a bit of Q&A. “How many of you have read 1984?” he asked. The only sound to be heard was my escaping footsteps. “How many of you watch Big Brother?” A loud rustle as a bunch of arms are raised. Then I hear a quiet voice as I hit the hot midday air: “I knew Big Brother was bad, but not *that* bad”.