10 November 2023

The Story Behind 1984

When George Orwell’s famous novel 1984 was first published back in 1949, it introduced people to a dystopian world of corrupt leaders, intrusive surveillance and a life where freedom of thought was virtually impossible. Today, 1984 has been adapted into interactive theatre in London and is a must-see event for Orwell fans. Enjoy a multi-sensory experience which takes place across several rooms at Hackney Town Hall, but beware - Big Brother is always watching. Let’s find out more about this immersive play in London and the story behind it.

1984 - A Summary

The plot of 1984 revolves around Winston Smith, an employee at the Ministry of Truth in the fictional totalitarian state of Oceania. He is responsible for rewriting past records to align with the Party’s current opinion but deeply resents the Party and wants to overthrow them. Everywhere he goes, even his own home, he’s watched through telescreens. Everywhere he looks, he sees the face of the Party’s omniscient leader, a figure known only as Big Brother.

When Smith meets an attractive dark haired lady, he first worries that she’s an informant who might turn him in for his thoughtcrime. After all, in Oceania, even your own personal thoughts aren’t safe from scrutiny. But the girl sends him a note saying she loves him and the pair begin a secret and illegal affair, hiding out in an apartment and discussing their shared feelings about the corrupt government. Sadly, they’re discovered after being betrayed by a Party spy, who had pretended to work for an opposition party - the Brotherhood - to gain their trust.

The couple finds out that they were being watched the whole time. They’re then taken to the notorious Room 101 where they are tortured into saying they no longer oppose the Party and Big Brother.

1984 - Orwell’s Warning

Unlike many dystopian novels which are set in distant and unfamiliar futures, 1984 was largely based on things that had already happened or could easily happen in the not so distant future. In fact, George Orwell wrote 1984 as a warning of what could happen if people allowed the government to obtain too much control. The novel was a result of his fears after seeing what happened in Nazi Germany.

Orwell had also watched the communist revolution in Russia and volunteered to fight against the Fascist government in the Spanish Civil War. At first supportive of the Russian Revolution, Orwell changed his opinions after realising that behind the veneer of justice lurked widespread famines, forced labour, internal power struggles and political repression. Whilst fighting in the Spanish Civil War, he became disillusioned by the resistance forces, believing they wanted to replace the Fascist government with an authoritarian regime of their own. These experiences are deeply interwoven into the novel 1984.

If you enjoy immersive theatre in London, don’t miss the unique retelling of Orwell’s 1984 in Hackney Town Hall.