Perhaps one of Free Theatre's best known productions of the eighties was 1984: the future is now. Inspired by Orwell's novel, the production (presented in 1984) became notorious for an interrogation process that audiences had to go through on entering the theatre. Led by chief heavies, Rudi Boelee and Quentin Wilson, the interrogators evicted audiences that did not conform, which led to one disturbed punter lodging an official complaint. Other highlights included an interrogation onstage in which the Ministry of Truth (led by Robin Bond as O'Brien) coerced everyman Smith (Charles Heywood) into conformity by placing a cage with a live rat over his head.
Free Theatre's 1984 served as a point of comparison for the recent production of Kafka's Amerika - how the mechanisms of 'Big Brother' and state control have become more effective in Western society with a move from the more overt (think the riots of 1981 and the authoritarian imaginings of Smith's Dream/Sleeping Dogs) to the more insidious mechanisms of control, where surveillance both big (Five Eyes) and small (Facebook) dictates our everyday lives.
Directed by Peter Falkenberg, 1984 was the first of a number of productions that visual artist Graham Bennett contributed to as designer (the others included Salome, Mahagonny, and Crusoe). We will be hosting a new installation by Graham Bennett in The Gym in October - a work inspired by Bosch's The Gardens of Earthy Delights and a provocation relating to our use of water.
Free Theatre's collaborations with visual artists as designers has become a key part of the company's work over three decades.
Every social order creates its own reality which is backed up by propaganda, whether it is subtle or obvious – things like the work ethic, the marriage ethic and the desire for happiness and security. Any individual who stands out against these myths is treated with suspicion or down-right hostility.
Peter Falkenberg on 1984