People are having a really hard time watching the new Broadway adaptation of 1984, with reports that theater goers are fainting, vomiting and getting in fights with each other as a result of the alarming scenes.
Similar to the book, the play is set in a dystopian future where critical thought is controlled by a tyrannical force known as Big Brother. The show is directed by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, the staging features strobe lights and sound effects, in addition to torture scenes from the book.
New York Times theater critic said the Broadway show is “graphic enough to verge on torture porn.”
Olivia Wilde, who was cast for the show, makes her Broadway debut with 1984. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Olivia Wilde broke her tailbone and split her lip during previews. Also, her co-star, Tom Sturridge broke his nose.
“I’m not surprised, since this experience is unique, bold and immersive,” Olivia Wilde, who broke her tailbone and dislocated her rib during previews, told The Hollywood Reporter after Thursday’s opening-night performance (during which one attendee passed out). “It allows you to empathize in a visceral way, and that means making the audience physically and emotionally uncomfortable.”
The show’s directors do not have a problem with turning down the intensity on the show:
“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,” explained Macmillan. “We can sanitize that and make people feel comforted, or we can simply present it without commentary and allow it to speak for itself.”
Added Icke, “You can stay and watch or you can leave — that’s a perfectly fine reaction to watching someone be tortured. But if this show is the most upsetting part of anyone’s day, they’re not reading the news headlines. Things are much worse than a piece of theater getting under your skin a little bit.”
Given the show’s intense and graphic scenes, kids under 13 are not allowed. Moreover, security guards are also positioned throughout the play’s theater in order to shut down any hostile responses from audience members.
Olivia Wilde last week discussed how “intense” the 1984 on the Today show. Wilde explains to Savannah Guthrie that the play is “immersive” like “a really scary ride.”