Where: Intrepid Theatre Club, 2-1609 Blanshard St.
When: Thursday through Saturday, then Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $20, $16 (250-590-6291 or ticketrocket.org)
Shoe-horning a sprawling dystopian novel like George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four into a tiny theatre is no easy job.
That's the task the Giggling Iguana troupe takes on with 18.104.22.168. The new theatrical adaptation, by Victoria's David Eledune, is boiled down to 75 minutes.
It's staged at Intrepid Theatre Club, a wee Blanshard Street theatre space that holds only 50 people.
Eledune received Orwell's famous postwar novel for a birthday present when he turned 21. One day, he decided to transform it into theatre.
"It was just sitting on the shelf looking at me. I thought, 'Why not?' " he said. "You're always looking for something that puts you outside your comfort zone."
Nineteen Eight-Four follows the misadventures of Winston, a downtrodden guy oppressed by an insidious ruling party that watches citizens constantly and prohibits free thought and individuality. A secretly rebellious Winston embarks on a covert affair with Julia, a young woman who harbours similar thoughts.
Winston is ultimately hoodwinked by O'Brien, a party spy who tortures and brainwashes him, forcing him to betray his girlfriend. (The torture that finally breaks Winston is having his head shoved into a cage full of ravenous rats.)
Eledune is an English-born playwright whose one-act show Good Night Uncle Joe played the Canadian fringe circuit in 2009. He met Giggling Iguana artistic director Ian Case in a writing class. When 22.214.171.124. was written, the pair turned to Roger Carr, who has directed such popular Lang-ham Court Theatre productions as The Drowsy Chaperone and The Laramie Project.
Carr admits to initial misgivings upon being asked to direct 126.96.36.199. He said Case and Eledune are kindred spirits (they both enjoy science fiction) whose approach to theatre is less conventional than his.
"Ian and David are so wacked with sci-fi and stuff. I said, 'You've got the wrong director.' They said, 'No, we think we have the right director.' "
The stage adaptation is renamed 188.8.131.52. (it reads as "one, nine, eight, four) because - although the novel's essence is retained - the play deviates significantly from the novel. The main changes stem from condensing the story. Ele-dune notes: "If you did the full novel, it'd be like Harry Potter, it'd be nine hours long."
The playwright focuses primarily on the romantic relationship between Winston (Eric Holmgren) and his girlfriend Julia (Ariel Slack). In 184.108.40.206., O'Brien is played by a woman, Christine Karpiak, which adds a new sexual undercurrent, Carr said.
Eledune has reset 220.127.116.11. in "Victory City" - a thinly veiled Victoria. He's added topical touches, such as references to cost overruns on the replacement for Blue Bridge-like "True Bridge."
Other changes include downplaying Newspeak, Orwell's invented language. Eledune says he did this because many such words, such as "thoughtcrime," have since 1948 become part of the English vocabulary, thus diminishing their impact. The playwright has also added a Greek chorus.
Despite its sobering con-tent, Carr and Eledune have endeavoured to make 18.104.22.168. a lively and amusing evening of theatre.
"The trick is trying to make it entertaining," Ele-dune said, "because theatre at the end of the day is entertainment. It's not a Church of England, preachy thing."
Added Carr, with a chuckle: "This one is so bleak, I was hoping we could get the audience engaged without scaring them off. And I think we have."
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