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1984 West End 2016 - Re-Rehearsal Diary Week 2

Jocelyn Cox

We are frequently discussing where Newspeak departs from Oldspeak, why, and what impact this has on the language and climate of Winston’s Oceania. However, Newspeak is not the only language our cast are getting to grips with, as we’re also building our shared vocabulary within the rehearsal room. We have terms and phrases which provide clarity to the actors, and an ease to delivering notes on a section of play, but which would be puzzling to an outsider. It is not uncommon for the cast to be reminded that ‘this is your Chris Rock moment’, or to bring a sense of ‘Fish Finger’ to an encounter. Perhaps the most commonly used example is to channel the ‘Hive Mind’ as best developed through ‘The Green Diamond Game’. Some are drawn from a range of relevant movies, books, images and songs. Others refer to exercises or games used in the process so far. It is interesting to observe that in a book and play concerned with the power of language, we are building our own.

A swear jar has also been incorporated into the rehearsal room, but not because the cast are prone to profanities! Rather, it is to reinforce a sense of ‘World Fear’. This is another useful phrase. If the action is taking place in Oceania, there are words which the characters would be very reluctant to utter aloud, and so the swear jar acts as a reminder that saying ‘thought criminal’ or ‘Goldstein’ has consequences. Although putting money in the cup pales in comparison to what a misplaced word could cost in Oceania, where careless talk really can cost lives - often your own, it reinforces a necessary tension within our company.

We are also beginning to take visual ownership of the rehearsal room. The walls are dotted with relevant articles and pieces of research from the cast and creatives. One wall has a classroom sized World Map, coloured to show Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia as described in the novel. Others have articles on totalitarian states, pages of words from initial discussion of play sections, drawings of locations by the cast, and definitions of important Newspeak words. All of the walls, and parts of the ceiling and windows, now proudly bear images of human eyes. Again, this is a tool to build a sense of Oceania’s ‘World Fear’ – of being continuously watched, and how this alters behaviour. The number of eyes increased gradually over the course of a week, and we noted whether the cast seemed aware of this. The walls and corridors now gaze back with a variety of eyes, some of which are taken from another exercise. The cast were asked to suggest figures that could be useful to visualise during the Two Minutes Hate. Once they had created the atmosphere of that scene through discussion and a guided improvisation, the eyes of their hated figures were mounted amongst the anonymous eyes already surrounding them.

We are constantly pushing the cast to question reality. Is reality affected by our subconscious? Is it affected by the presence and attitude of others existing alongside us in it? Do we all necessarily exist in the same reality? To what extent can our perception of reality be altered by outside suggestion? They have completed a series of mental tasks to demonstrate the fallibility of memory and how susceptible we are to impression, particularly when introduced by authority figures.

The game ‘Mafia’ has become a rehearsal room staple. It is particularly important as it concerns truth and concealment, performance and perception. The cast have also been asked to lie outside of the rehearsal room, and report back. How did it feel to tell the lie? Would that experience be different if you were lying to a stranger rather than someone you’re close to? What did you notice about your behaviour leading up to, and delivering the lie? What tactics did you employ to ensure the falsity was not detected?

The cast have now all finished reading, or re-reading the novel. We routinely refer to it to elaborate on sections that have necessarily been refined and concentrated in adaptation. Although frequently commented on, what is perhaps most striking in revisiting this modern classic is the resonance it has with today’s world, and this relevance has only intensified in the few short years since Robert and Duncan first began working on this version. In reading this diary, you will have authorised, willingly or unintentionally, certain applications to register your location and note your interests. Your internet usage and search history represent a deep insight into your allegiances and activity, yet unlike Winston who tries to find some privacy and rebel against Big Brother’s constant monitoring, we now sign away our data for free, to ensure that we can use apps mainly to broadcast further information about ourselves…!