An exciting new musical comedy: ! Tap-dancing in torture chambers, rats with razzle-dazzle, Big Brother with even bigger star power: ! The Musical! In a world where "alternative facts," have normalised Doublethink and our phones collect our data and watch us like Telescreens, Orwell's dystopia has never felt closer to home. And Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of, if not the, most powerful political works of our time. So adapting the text as a comedy felt surprisingly natural. Indeed, Orwell, who invented the term "Doublethink", would understand perhaps better than anyone that all the best comedies are also tragedies.
Sydney Theatre Reviews | Australian Theatre
Sydney theatre reviews
This new adaptation looks specifically to the funny side of surveillance and turns the novel into a comedy and a musical. Hollands plays a meek Winston well, especially across from Della Marta with her palpable apathy and powerful voice, and the two hold together the narrative commendably if conventionally, considering the dystopian context. Vella and MacQueen were crowd favourites but with MacQueen perhaps taking one too many liberties with opportunistic ad libbing. Direction from co-directors McLeod and Vella is clean with distinct attention paid to a balance of hamminess and charm. The production is of high quality with simple set design from Sophie Lanigan and Max Volfneuk involving a trio of stairs and stage cubes and an unencumbered lighting design from Hayden Tonazzi that makes use of flashes and colour without overshadowing the music. What is the joke? As a musical of excessive soppy silliness with a borrowed plot and characters, !
Although a raw work, The Musical is energetic and inventive on many fronts, with direction by McLeod and Georgia Vella contributing a valuable exuberance to the staging. Performer Charlie Hollands is a likeable Winston Smith, able to balance tragedy and comedy in his interpretation of the everyman under tremendous stress. His love interest Julia is played by Anna Della Marta, who impresses with a sonorous voice. The role of Charrington is taken on by director Vella, who proves herself equally accomplished on stage, delivering many laughs as the unscrupulous undercover agent. Sometimes all you can do is laugh, and it does feel as though we have arrived at a point in our evolution, where we can only respond to the state of things with incredulity.
The musical is an entirely original work written and composed by students. Its two acts successfully blend political satire, existentialist commentary, black humour, and tragicomedy in a rousing testament to the talents of its cast and crew. One can only hope that this remarkable production can reach more audiences in the future through a larger, professional run. The musical begins with the cast performing The Party Never Ends — a number I can only describe as a hyper-nationalist, psychopathic cheerleading routine. A duet by two uniformed grinning schoolgirls Danielle Stephenson, Sophie Roderick best sets the tone for the musical. Many distinct but overlapping subplots interrupt the main story through abrupt and unexpected scene transitions, allowing the audience to share in the building sense of chaos and confusion being experienced by the characters. The flow between scenes is nevertheless effective, a credit to a versatile crew that is able to pull off frequent, complex set changes within seconds. In one subplot, Winston rebels against the government and the loveless marriage into which he has been forced by a societal duty to procreate. He has an affair with the far more charming and intelligent Julia Anna Della Marta , with whom he plots political rebellion.