The future-past becomes present

Giggling Iguana reimagines George Orwell's classic novel in 1.9.8.4.

Randi Edmundson (left), Tito Martin-Nemtin (top) with Erin Holmgren in Giggling Iguana Productions’ 1.9.8.4..

 

 

 

Giggling Iguana Productions is bringing the future-past to present day Victoria with its production of 1.9.8.4., an adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novel by local playwright David Elendune.

Don’t adjust your telescreens, 1.9.8.4. is Newspeak for Orwell’s more dated title.

With 1984 no longer in the future, Elendune’s adaptation evolved into 1.9.8.4. (One Nine Eight Four) to free it from a specific time and allow it to be a re-imagining of present day Victoria, or Victory City.

And even though it’s been more than 60 years since the novel was published, and we’re almost 20 years past the time of the bleak future world Orwell imagined in his story, its themes are as relevant as ever: Power corrupts … and Big Brother is most certainly watching.

1.9.8.4. tells the story of Winston Smith (Eric Holmgren) and Julia (Ariel Slack) who, in the face of an all-controlling government, pursue an illegal love affair until they are captured. They are faced with a horrific re-education process, or “cure,” under the watchful guidance of the mysterious O’Brien.

Another twist in Elendune’s adaptation is that the role of O’Brien has been written for a female. Christine Karpiak was cast in the role.

“It’s a challenge to turn the enigma of 1984 into something that works for an audience,” explains director Roger Carr. “David’s done a wonderful job capturing the feel and spirit of Orwell’s original work while cleverly adding and updating elements. He’s breathed new life into the piece, making it feel both modern and familiar.”

The result is a “very compact and intense” 75- minute adaptation for the stage.

It’s been 13 years since Giggling Iguana has produced a play on a traditional stage (Equus in 1999 at the McPherson Playhouse), focusing instead on its site-specific performances, including the ever-popular annual Halloween show at Craigdarroch Castle.

Odly enough, it was Carr who directed their last conventional production.

“I guess I’m conventional,” he says with a snicker.

But Carr is widely known for directing some of Langham Court Theatre’s most unconventional performances, including the controversial Laramie Project and the recent sold-out run of The Drowsy Chaperone.

The production also stars Tito Martin-Nemtin and Randi Edmundson as the Chorus.

“They are speaker 1 and speaker 2, a man and woman who change characters throughout,” says Carr. “They’re almost narrators at times, at other times quite clown-like, and at other times very oppressive.”

But don’t expect the production to be akin to an “evening of jabbing themselves in the eye.”

“The mood — from the audience’s perspective sitting down to think about what I’m going to do on a Friday night — I say give it a shot, it’s incredibly theatrical. I think it will sweep people off their feet. It’s fun to watch, and although there are some bleak scenes, I think they’re all contextualized,” says Carr.

The multi-level set, featuring two large pillars, was designed by Carr and built by the inmates at William Head Institution. M

 

 

1.9.8.4.

Intrepid Theatre Club

(1609 Blanshard)

Nov. 21-24 at 8pm Until Dec. 2

Tickets are $20/16 at ticketrocket.org or 250-590-6291

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