Unpresence: Headlong’s 1984 and the screen on stage

Vera Cantoni


The article focuses on Headlong’s dramatisation of 1984 (2013) and on the role played in it by a stage-wide screen as a significant example of what relevant and specific functions video can have in a rather traditional theatre production. After an overview of the relation between the screen on stage and the novel’s ‘telescreens’, a semiological analysis of the mediated images shows that the effect of 1984’s screen is both unique, in that it identifies the audience with the Thought Police, and exemplary of video’s ability to present theatre with the otherness of ‘a presence that is not there’.


screen; Orwell; 1984; dramatization; Headlong; stage; playwriting

Full Text:



Carlson, Marvin, “Video and Stage Space: Some European Perspectives”, Modern Drama, 46.4 (2003): 614-27.

Coveney, Michael, “1984 (Almeida)”, WhatsOnStage, 14/02/2014, https://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/reviews/1984-almeida_33521.html, web (last accessed 29/05/2018).

Cox, Jocelyn, 1984 West End 2016 – Re-Rehearsal Diary – Week 1, 2016, https://headlong.co.uk/productions/1984/explore/1984-west-end-rehearsal-diary-week-1/, online (last accessed 31/05/2018).

Cox, Jocelyn, 1984 West End 2016 – Re-Rehearsal Diary – Week 4, 2016, https://headlong.co.uk/productions/1984/explore/1984-west-end-re-rehearsal-diary-week-4/, online (last accessed 31/05/2018).

Dixon, Steve, “Theatre, technology, and time”, International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media 1.1 (2005): 11-29.

Eco, Umberto, Orwell, o dell’energia visionaria, in George Orwell, 1984,
Milano, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 19844: V-XIII.

Gardner, Lyn, “1984 - review”, The Guardian, 22/09/2013, https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/sep/22/1984-review, online (last accessed 31/05/2018).

Giesekam, Greg, Staging the Screen: The Use of Film and Video in Theatre, Basingstoke (UK) – New York (NY), Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Icke, Robert – Macmillan, Duncan, 1984 by George Orwell, London, Oberon Books, 2013.

Luegenbiehl, Heinz C., “1984 and the Power of Technology”, Social Theory and Practice, 10.3 (1984), A Special Issue: Orwell’s 1984: 289-300.

Maxwell, Dominic, “1984 at the Almeida, N1”, The Times, 17/02/2014, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/1984-at-the-almeida-n1-9thdmlkfpv5, online (last accessed 29/05/2018).

Milder, Patricia, “Staging the Image: Video in Contemporary Performance”, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, 31.3 (2009): 108-119.

Orwell, George, 1984 (1949), New York, New American Library – Penguin Group (USA), 1991.

Orwell, George, Orwell: A Life in Letters, ed. Peter Davison, New York, Liveright, 2013.

Raggett, Daniel, 1984 Original Tour 2013 – Rehearsal Diary – Week Three, 2013, https://headlong.co.uk/productions/1984/explore/1984-rehearsal-diary-week-three/, online (last accessed 31/05/2018).

Raggett, Daniel, 1984 Original Tour 2013 – Rehearsal Diary – Week Six, 2013, https://headlong.co.uk/productions/1984/explore/1984-rehearsal-diary-week-six/, online (last accessed 31/05/2018).

Richardson, Owen, “1984 theatre review (Melbourne Festival)”, Daily Review, 17/10/2015, http://dailyreview.com.au/1984-theatre-review-melbourne-festival/31650/, web (last accessed 29/05/2018).

Teachout, Terry, “‘1984’ Review: Big Brother Worth Watching”, The Wall Street Journal, 22/06/2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/1984-review-big-brother-worth-watching-1498177802, online (last accessed 29/05/2018).

Varricchio, Mario, “Power of Images/Images of Power in Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, Utopian Studies, 10.1 (1999): 98-114.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/3335

NBN: http://nbn.depositolegale.it/urn%3Anbn%3Ait%3Aunica-24747

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM

Between Journal is published by the University of Cagliari - Maintenance for this OJS installation is provided by UniCA  Open Journals, hosted by Sistema Bibliotecario di Ateneo.

Between Journal is published with the funding of the Bank of Sardinia Foundation.

ISSN 2039-6597

CC-By lockssDOAJ seal SPARC Europe