Double dystopia dose | Ken Longworth

ADAPTATION: Some of the Double Dystopia cast, from left, Sam Deakin, Caitlan Denton, Harrison Burns, Alexander Davison. Photo: David Brown
ADAPTATION: Some of the Double Dystopia cast, from left, Sam Deakin, Caitlan Denton, Harrison Burns, Alexander Davison. Photo: David Brown

GEORGE Orwell’s novel 1984 and Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange continue to be well read decades after they were written because people continue to see elements in the world around them of the dystopian societies they depict.

A dystopia is an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one. Both works have been adapted for the stage, and continue to draw large audiences.

Hunter TAFE’s Regional Institute of Performing Arts is staging a double bill of hour-long versions of the plays under the umbrella title Dystopia Double at the Civic Playhouse from December 1 to 3. The works will feature acting and musical theatre diploma students.

The central character in 1984 is Winston Smith, known as Comrade 6079, who works in the Ministry of Truth established in the country Oceania. Winston’s rule is to “correct” media reports on people and events – that is, to change them to suit the governing regime’s policies.

When the mild Winston falls in love with the sensuous Julia, she tries to persuade him to revolt against the regime. Winston, however, is soon arrested and tortured.

1984 has contributed many terms to global languages, including Big Brother, double think and thought police, so that the story is still relevant. George Orwell chose the title 1984 because he wrote the book in 1948 and decided to reverse the year’s last two numbers for the future setting. This adaptation is by American writers Robert Owens, Wilton E. Hall and William A. Miles.

A Clockwork Orange likewise is set in a future England, with teenager Alex leading a gang called the Droogs (Russian for “close friends”) and using a language, Nadsat, a hybrid of Russian and English street slang. The Droogs are into drugs, rape and random violence, but one incident – the assault of a writer’s attractive wife – leads Alex to be imprisoned and volunteering for an experimental treatment aimed at “killing the criminal reflex”. The story has the teens into music, with Alex having a passion for Beethoven, so when Burgess adapted the 1962 novel for the stage in 1986 he included a lot of pop and classical music.

The TAFE Dystopia Double, directed by David Brown, has Sam Deakin as 1984’s Winston and Cooper Donald McDonald as Clockwork’s Alex. The other actors are Ryan Bates, Ryan Beazley, Harrison Burns, Jac Cabrita, Thomas Churchill, Ethan Dale, Alexander Davison, Caitlan Denton, Connor Gibson, Ruth Moriarty, and Chauntelle O’Brien.

Dystopia Double has performances nightly at 7.30pm from December 1 to 3. Tickets: $20, conc $15. Bookings: 4929 1977.