Review: 1984, West Yorkshire Playhouse ****

Northern Ballet's new production of 1984.

Northern Ballet's new production of 1984.

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I started ballet classes aged four. By age five I had given up. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it. I loved it. But there was talk of an end of term show to which parents would be invited. I didn’t want anyone to watch me dance, so that was it.

I’ve always regretted pulling the plug before I even got to points. Never more so than when watching Northern Ballet’s 1984.

Choreographer Jonathan Watkins, who last year brought Kes to the stage, shows no words are needed to conjure the dystopian spirit of Orwell’s original work, ably aided and abetted by composer Alex Baranowski’s often disturbing score and Simon Daw’s clever set design.

From the robotic ensemble pieces in the Ministry of Truth scenes to the baying mob on a blind mission, the company transforms into the totalitarian machine, each cog working as one to obliterate individuality.

Fated to break this uniformity are Winston Smith and Julia, played in this performance by Isaac Lee-Baker and Dreda Blow. Their love story, beautifully told, sits in sharp contrast to the mechanical world of Big Brother, who looks on ominously. Watkins’ production is as chilling as Orwell’s original vision and when Winston finds himself on the wrong side of the Thought Police and in Room 101, the tension within the packed Playhouse auditorium was audible. A masterstroke in dance, if Big Brother was watching, he would no doubt have approved.

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