At least four audience members have passed out during the latest Broadway incarnation of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel, 1984. According to reviewers, the play does not shy away from the graphic torture scene that the main character, Winston, endures, which makes many audience members feel queasy and uneasy when watching the show. They were even warned that 1984 isn’t “your grandma’s Broadway production.”
No children under the age of 14 are permitted to the theater, and with good reason. Reviewers have stated that the torture scene, in particular, verges on torture porn and is too much for many who are watching the play. While movies regularly feature this, there is something about watching a production live that moves audience members to react so violently.
Duncan Macmillan, one of the directors of the play, spoke to The Hollywood Reporterabout the extreme reactions of the audience.
“We’re not trying to be willfully assaultive or exploitatively shock people, but there’s nothing here or in the disturbing novel that isn’t happening right now, somewhere around the world: people are being detained without trial, tortured and executed.”
It has previously been said that theater holds up a mirror to society, and it may be possible that what audience members see reflected is simply too much to handle.
Sales of 1984 drastically increased once Donald Trump was elected president, as many in the arts community have likened his presidency to similar to the acts in 1984.
Robert Icke, one of the directors of 1984 said that he is not offended by audience members leaving during Winston’s torture scene, as turning your back is a perfectly normal reaction to seeing someone being treated extremely violently.
Ickes also emphasizes that if watching the show is the most disturbing part of one’s day, then they are not taking the time to read the news properly.
The play is so rough that Olivia Wilde, who plays Julia, broke her tailbone and dislocated a rib during previews of the show. She says she is not surprised by the audience’s reaction to the content of the show because it is so disturbing.
According to the cast of 1984, an audience member pleaded that they stop the torture of Winston during the controversial scene, which of course, they did not.
During previews for the play in London, two audience members became so riled by the show that they ended up in an argument and charges were pressed against the pair.
Lead actor, Reed Birney, weighed in on the controversy.
“If people don’t pass out, I hope they’re reminded of our power as citizens, and our responsibility as human beings to each other.”
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]