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1984 is a clarion call of a sinister future

Walterdale director Monica Roberts sees current parallels to Orwell's dystopian vision
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MIke Anderson (Winston), St. Albert's Murriel Mapa (Julia) and Andrew Mecready (O'Brien) star in Walterdale Theatre's production of 1984 opening Wednesday, Feb. 5. SCOTT HENDERSON/Photo



Runs Feb. 5 to 15

Walterdale Theatre

10322 83 Ave.

Tickets: $18 to $20. Call 780-4201757 or at

Big Brother is watching wherever you are. Creepy? That’s the world Walterdale Theatre has created with an adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.

In Orwell’s haunting and terrifying vision of the future, the world is held in a vise of terror. It’s a world of 24-hour surveillance, systemic hatred and never-ending conflict.

He envisioned a dystopian world where pleasure was forbidden, language and history methodically destroyed or rewritten, and people vanished.

For Monica Roberts, artistic director of Walterdale Theatre, Orwell’s vision is perilously close to the 21st century dynamic.

“Our political climate is edging towards it in a number of ways and we have to question the role of a single charismatic leader. The use of hate as a political tool for an agenda has increased since 2016 and it’s important to question who controls the political narrative and the facts,” said Roberts.

The story revolves around Winston Smith (Mike Anderson), a mere spoke in the colossal state of Oceania. Winston works in the Ministry of Truth and his role is to rewrite history to conform to the Party’s political agenda.

“There’s a line in the play – who controls the present controls the past. Who controls the past controls the future,” Roberts said, explaining the Party’s raison d’être.

Everyone is constantly under the oppressive spying eye of Big Brother.

“Who can you trust? Your lover? Your best friend? Your neighbour? Your child? Winston is trapped in a prison without bars but with constant surveillance. Nothing is private.”

In this world stifled by distrust and violence, Winston desperately searches for love and freedom. In doing so, he becomes a rebel against the state.

“Winston’s first act of a thought crime is to write a private diary. That is his first act of treachery.”

One day, Winston meets Julia and they begin a covert affair. The duo rents a room above a second-hand store in the prole district where the proletariat live squalid lives.

“Julia is a strong, important tether to Winston. She stays grounded in the moment with what they have and she lives life in the moment.”

St. Albert actress Murriel Mapa assumes the role of Julia.

“Murriel had to find the core of Julia in the novel and she had to find the core of Julia in the play. Matching the two was difficult. Murriel had the ability to bring a certain simplicity forward.”

Another St. Albert actress, Anne Marie Szucs, tackles the role of Goldstein, the alleged leader of the rebellious Brotherhood. However, in true Big Brother scenario, the scenes are played out on a screen.

In this dystopian world, nothing is what it seems.

“One of the concerns I have is we must never be politically complacent in the rise of a political party unwilling to listen to contradictory ideas. We need to be vigilant and question what their end game is.”

1984 runs from Feb. 5 to 15.

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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