1984 Play Review: A Unique Take on a Classic


Scott County High School students took a trip to Centre College to watch George Orwell’s 1984, adapted by Michael Gene Sullivan. One student remarks on the play.

The 1984 performance was a very intricate play with a complex storyline. The difference in the story resulted in an interesting hour and a half. Initially walking into the play, it became obvious that the plot contrasted to the actual novel. However, the play proved itself to be a lot more entertaining than my original expectation. The first few minutes were stressful and chaotic, however, after about fifteen minutes, the plot began to make a lot more sense. 

Perhaps the most entertaining characteristic of the play was the pure talent of each actor. Each actor was so talented; it was obvious which character they were portraying. It was evident that the six actors worked long hours for many weeks to remember all their cues, lines, and props. Their stamina was quite impressive, seeing as they very much could remember all of the lines the characters had. Especially because there was such a small cast, to make the story flow cohesively, each actor played multiple roles. As an audience member, it was quite clear that each of the actors was familiar with 1984, however, the play needed some familiarity with the original text. 

The change of plot between the author and the playwright’s versions was the biggest difference when comparing the play to the original novel. The novel is easily understandable, told in chronological order. Whereas the play is almost told backward, beginning with the overarching government known as the Party capturing Winston, the main character, showing different scenes that were chronologically told in the book. 

After coming to terms with the way the play was adapted, it became super interesting and exciting to see all the scenes visualized. I also found the play to have done a great job with O’Brien, Winston’s best friend whom is an inner government leader, portrayed as a woman. Reading the novel, O’Brien is described as a manipulative Party member who is easily trusted based on his gratitude, so when a woman was O’Brien there was controversy on the change, yet I thought it to be thrilling. 

Apart from the confusing introduction, it benefited the play, and made it more entertaining. I did enjoy that there was a past and present Winston that was visually represented, however, I do wish there were more actors involved with the production. Occasionally, I became confused over which character was who. Yet most of the time, a small cast created an intimacy with the audience a large cast wouldn’t have the opportunity to, meaning intense scenes were all-the-more thrilling.

In conclusion, the playwright 1984 was phenomenal.  The actors were bright and full of emotions, the set was never boring to look at (even though there was only one set piece), and each scene was so detailed and intense, the audience felt as though they were sitting in the cell with Winston. Seeing the play created an even stronger passion I previously held for the book, and I would look forward to seeing this again.