1984 has seen a resurgence in popularity lately, and that includes a new Broadway take on George Orwell’s classic dystopian tale about an oppressive government run by “Big Brother.” But the updated version is proving to be way too intense for some.
The new on-stage adaptation of the book is known to feature some quite graphic scenes…scenes so graphic that they have reportedly caused audience members to pass out, vomit, and even get into physical fights with each other. Ahh, there’s nothing like a quiet and cultured night out at the theater!
The scenes that people find so offensive depict the torture of Winston Smith (Tom Sturridge), who is discovered by Big Brother to have been having an illegal affair with a woman, Julia (Olivia Wilde). The scenes feature strobe lights and loud sound effects, a cage of rats, and simulated vicious beatings complete with blood splattering — all while Winston chastises the audience directly, accusing them of allowing his torture to take place. There are even reports of audience members having yelled at the actors on stage to try and get them to stop the carnage.
“We’re not trying to be willfully assaultive or exploitatively shock people,” Duncan Macmillan, who wrote and directed the play alongside Robert Icke, told The Hollywood Reporter. “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. We can sanitize that and make people feel comforted, or we can simply present it without commentary and allow it to speak for itself.”
“You can stay and watch or you can leave — that’s a perfectly fine reaction to watching someone be tortured,” Icke added. “But if this show is the most upsetting part of anyone’s day, they’re not reading the news headlines. Things are much worse than a piece of theater getting under your skin a little bit.”
Children under 14 are not allowed into the play due to its graphic depictions of violence, but if you want to test your mettle, the play is running through September 30 at New York’s Hudson Theatre.