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Ahead of LUTG’s production of 1984, SCAN spoke to co-directors Jamie Lonsdale and Hannah Cooper, and lead actor James Bone, about their hopes for the upcoming show.
What was it about 1984 that made you want to do a production?
JL: We chose it because we really like the story, but also because me and Hannah are both quite technical people as well, and there’s lots we can do with tech, as well as great character development. We’ve got a really good team that’s very tech-focused, as well as working with brilliant actors.
HC: I really like dystopian themes as well, especially in plays. Just looking through the themes of the book gave me so many ideas for what we could do on stage.
JB: I’d read the novel when I was younger, and I couldn’t believe how much had stuck with me when I read the script, so the story obviously resonated with me. I was excited by the ideas for the set and how the actors had to interact with the tech, because that’s something you don’t get the chance to do in every play.
How did you go about creating the look and sound of 1984?
HC: From the moment we chose it, we wanted it to be quite creepy in its aesthetic, quite cold and uncaring. With the team we’ve got and the tech we’ve got, we wanted to make the lighting and the soundscape very sinister. I don’t want to give too much away though!
Have you seen any other productions of 1984? How do you put your own spin on it?
JB: I always make a conscious effort to not watch anyone that I’m playing, because I’m so tempted to rip them off. Every play I’ve done with LUTG, I’ve banned myself from any kind of material relating to it while it’s on. I have to start from scratch and put my own spin on it.
JL: When we’ve been talking about 1984, everyone knows the book, but they’re less familiar with the play. Not many people knew it was a script when we started talking about it. I haven’t seen any of the adaptations either – I want to put my own spin on it without trying to rip anything off. So hopefully there aren’t going to be too many preconceptions, and we’re doing some things that hopefully haven’t been done before with 1984, which is what we’re really excited about.
You’ve all done LUTG shows before. How does this compare?
HC: Really different, because I’ve never done any directing before, I’ve been stage managing mainly.
JL: Yeah, it’s mine and Hannah’s first time directing, we have assistant directed but it’s the first time it’s been ‘our vision’ rather than helping out, which has been very different. It’s fun to be in charge of a project.
JB: For me, every play has been a new challenge. The characters I’ve played have been very varied. With this, you need to be collaborating with all of the actors constantly on sections of the play, the rehearsals are very intense. It’s resulted in quite a different performance than I’ve ever given before.
LUTG do some adaptations, like this, and some original productions. Which do you prefer?
JL: I like to work with scripts that have been tested. But when I’m watching, I always prefer to watch the originals because it’s the first time anyone’s put it on and that really excites me.
HC: I also prefer working with scripts, but with originals there’s more scope to do anything really.
JB: I’m just proud of what we do, I think it’s amazing that we put on four shows a term, and every time I go and see it I’m just more and more proud to be part of the society, so I don’t mind if it’s original or not. Most people wouldn’t put on four shows a year, and we put on thirteen.
JL: It’s amazing that we have the opportunity in a society where we can do this stuff. A professional company came to the Nuffield Theatre recently, we explained our process as a society and they were amazed, and that makes us so proud to be a part of it. So whatever we’re doing, I’m so thrilled to be involved really.
It is more of a challenge to win over the audience with an adaptation, given that many of them will know the story?
JL: I hope not, I hope people just treat it like anything else. I’ve never gone in with a preconception of any show, I’ve always kept an open mind, so I hope that everyone does the same for us!
JB: We all love theatre anyway, so we’re always going to be excited by going to see a play, and the idea of not being excited by that is a bit alien. The aim we always have is to try and get people interested in theatre who don’t think they like theatre, but we know that they could.
How would you sell the show to anyone still on the fence?
HC: I’d say it’s everything you want from 1984 – all the themes, all the characters, but it’s done in such an interesting way.
JL: It’s a tried and tested story that is much-loved around the world put into a format that will ignite excitement from anybody who’s read it, who’s studied it, who’s never heard of it before, who likes or does not like theatre. The way the story is told, and the spectacle we’re planning to create, anyone should enjoy.
And finally, what would go in your Room 101?
JL: I’ve got a phobia of thunder and lightning – not when it’s there, but the thought of it coming. So if I was put into a position where I think it’s going to come, I think that would be my worst.
HC: Wasps. Probably just one wasp.
1984 is showing at the Nuffield Theatre, 7:30pm on Saturday and 2:30pm & 7:30pm on Sunday Week 16 (25th and 26th February). Find out more at www.facebook.com/LUTG1984/