Kelowna Actors Studio, primarily known for its lush performances of well-loved musicals and comedies, has stepped out of the box — completely.
Swinging the theatrical pendulum wildly, the actors are staging an intense, politically charged and often brutal production of George Orwell’s “1984.”
A classic in its own right, “1984” on stage takes audiences on a ride that promises to goad the mind, prick at the intellect and have people talk and question the old theory of Big Brother in society.
“This is theatre with a capital ‘T’,” noted Pete MacLeod, who shoulders the main role of Winston Smith, living under the totalitarian rule of the Party in Oceania, a society with fake news, constantly infiltrated surveillance and zero citizen rights.
A multi-layered and intense play, “1984” is provocative, and is infused with modern political rhetoric and smart dialogue.
In a society where all thought is controlled by the Party, Smith takes the dangerous step of defiance against the thought police, and begins to document life in his prohibited diary to document his existence and the truth of Oceania life.
“This is his act of defiance, punishable by death, where he writes down how he feels about it all,” MacLeod said. “Parts of it are graphic, the play doesn’t pull any punches, and it pushes the boundaries.”
Produced as part of the Edge Series, and staged at The WorkRoom, “1984” will attract an audience that is already “thinking about our current political environment and events around the world.”
Dana Murphy, who plays Julia, Winston’s illicit love interest, said the play is “very timely in its narrative” and looks at “words, feelings and truth.”
“The ideas in 1984, Big Brother, the corrupt politics, the thought police—have become a part of the English lexicon,” she added. “I think the audience will really get into it on many levels, and get drawn into their lives in this sterile society.”
Winston with his illegal diary, and Julia who indulges herself with the much-frowned-upon pleasurable sex, are a pair of thinkers flirting with possible annihilation if the Thought Police catch them on the ever-present and intrusive Telescreens.
Eventually, both are caught, by a sinister Inner Party Member, O’Brien (Mark Sorestad) and taken to the Ministry of Love, where efforts are made to break their spirit.
Intrigue, torture, subterfuge, clashing ideals, all intertwine to bring the audience into the action on stage. Adding to the auditory experience is an original soundscape by Tully Johnson; while visual effects created with projections and movies are by Nathan Flavel.
Due to its nature and combined with intense staging, graphic elements, violence, strobe lights, fog, sudden blackouts, and adult language, the audience is reminded that once in the theatre, no one may leave. No one under the age of 14 will be allowed to attend.
Director Randy Leslie, who experienced the full Broadway production, said it “left us speechless.”
“It was one of the top theatre experiences,” he added. “It was a truly immersive piece of theatre. The audience will be involved from the moment they walk into the lobby.”
Murphy, who makes her first appearance on the KAS stage, sees the play as “a very relevant narrative to our time,” she said. “I think the audience will take away something different, depending on what touches them.
“It puts a light on how we as humans interact, how we look at words, feelings and truth,” she added. “I hope they’ll be drawn into it, and find the humanity in it.”
MacLeod added that “this play is definitely not fluffy or light.”
“As an actor, it’s demanding and the cast is churning out a piece of quality theatre with relevance to our political and environmental climate,” he said.
Also included in the cast are Casey Easton, Stephen Jefferys, Timothy Harder, Jason Casey, Chantal Ethier and Cate Crozier.
What: George Orwell’s 1984, The Edge Series as presented by Kelowna Actors Studio.
When: Jan. 15 – 26 at 7:30 p.m. with Sat. matinee 1 p.m.
Where: The WorkRoom, 100-2600 Enterprise Way (across from WalMart)
Tickets: Students $24 Adults $29 Available at Kelowna Tickets on 2600 Enterprise Way.