‘2084 – A Musical’

‘2084 – A Musical’ is brand new work from Sarah Courtis and Ellin Sears as part of their PhD theses. Sarah Courtis’ lyrics and script by were inspired by George Orwell’s masterpiece, ‘1984’; the innovative music was then added by composer and musical director, Nick Choo, then the inventive choreography created by Ellin Sears.

This lively dramatic production can be seen for three nights only at the Nexus Theatre, at Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 7.00, until 20th August.

The scene is the exercise yard of a compound owned by ‘One World Corporation’. Limestone walls, topped with barbed wire (Designer Allison Bell almost single handed constructed and painted this very realistic set. She had some assistance from John Bailey) surround the area. Overlooking the area is the promotions manager’s office. On a higher level (almost in the lighting grid) stands George Orwell.

At each side of the stage was a TV monitor showing Supervisor Felicity and the sufferings of Julia (Filming by Taylor Gilbert, AV by Blearnard Suarez).

Visible through chinks in the rear limestone wall are the musicians. On Keyboard – Kenn Ellis and Nick Ireland, Cello – Caitlyn Harrison, Drums – Liam Richer, Bass – Chris Heindl, Guitar – Mike Gorman and Trombone – Ned Holland.

A slick show, thanks to Production Manager Thomas Dimmick with his fast and efficient team, under Stage Manager Brianna Lea, who was assisted by Tijana Simich.

       The curtains rise to show us a smartly dressed woman, Roberta (Cat Perez), with a bejewelled pendant of an ever-watching eye around her neck. The ‘eye’ is the symbol of the ‘One World Corporation’ that is having a Memory Day Celebration. Roberta has a small computer attached to her scalp, which, like her armband glows with a blue light (Props, Dean Lovatt). It appears she is in great discomfort from the flickering head unit.

     The celebrations begin with a line of tap-dancing girls, dressed in black leotards and sporting lime green top hats. On the back of their costumes, once again, is the big brother eye. As they finish their routine, the smiles disappear as the hoodies with black masks, under the command of security chief, Will (Will Moriarty) move in and capture the performers. Next time we see the dancers they are wearing armbands and are now ‘committed’ members of the Corporation. The Corporation believes in ‘one voice’ for the benefit of all.

     When Ian Winston’s (Launcelot Ronzan) armband flashes, it means that the power is low and the brainwashing propaganda is not reaching his mind. As a result, Ian, who is Head of Propaganda, seems to be having doubt as to the ethics of his job in this fragile world, as the inmates are like zombies or automatons, void of expression.

     For some unknown reason, one of the Corporation’s members, Julia (Deirdre Khoo), seems to get preferential treatment – this forces Felicity (Rebecca Dilley) the supreme supervisor who looks after the women’s ‘welfare’, to pick on her.

     On high, dressed in a full-length black leather coat, is the omnipotent Orwell, the creator of the Corporation. When Orwell notices that some of the team are rebelling, she sends in her Assistant (Michael Casas).

       With the activated armbands fading rapidly on many of the inmates, and with the brain-washing power fading, could this be their chance for a revolution?

The versatile Ensemble comprised – Tay Broadley, Justin Crossley, Bella Doyle, Andrew Haning, Andrea Kendrick, Abbey McCaughan, Claire Mosel, Ellin Sears, Gema Seenarain, Ashleigh Spring, Clare Talbot, Sean Wcislo, Nashy MZ. This ensemble is includes drama / acting students, but in support of their PhD student friends, they were happy to take themselves out of their comfort zones by singing and dancing with gusto. The dancers may not have been quite top rate, and some singers lacking a little in vocal range, but the performers gave the play everything that they could. Many congratulations.

Sarah Courtis in writing the script and lyrics has produced a most interesting storyline, with great dialogue and engrossing lyrics; but what I found most ingenious was her ability to carry through Orwell’s original style of writing. Along with Sarah’s imaginative directing, the lyrics clearly encompassed the bullying by the supervisors, such as Will’s intimidation and the wonderfully powerful, gritty tones of Roberta (Cat Perez). In a variety of musical styles, a couple of scenes later there were a couple of soft, heartrending songs by Julia (Deidre Khoo).

Choreographer Ellin Sears skilfully gave us the ‘big show opening’ with the bright, bouncy tap chorus. Soon the joyful atmosphere turned to one of drama, as the cast became antagonistic inmates, stomping through a song. There was a delightful ballet scene, rapidly followed by a revolutionary march that could match ‘Les Miserables’ in its threatening power. There followed a tricky Busby Berkeley-style concentric circle dance routine which worked very well.

Nick Choo conducted his musicians through his clever compositions, with carefully selected instruments to match the mood. One scene had staccato strings; next there was the pounding, full power of the band that almost achieved orchestral richness with the limited instruments. Clever arrangement.

The lighting was well considered by Lighting Designer, Katie Southwell and smoothly operated by Shannon Precious. The Sound Design was the work of Christian Mulchinock and operated by Corina Brown. Achieving a balance for a band packed into a small enclosed space, coupled with controlling the dreaded headsets for the lead singers was no mean task. Both worked perfectly, well done.

The final touch to this fast moving drama was the costumes, audaciously designed by Jenia Gladziejewski, Ellin Sears and Sarah Courtis. It would have been easy to just have the dancers in standard black leotards, but the extra ‘eye adornment’ made them relevant to the story. Inventive little touches, like Ian’s leather gauntlet and the ghostly white mask dance gave the show a big budget look – whist being produced on a shoestring.

I learnt afterwards that the show had minimal rehearsal time, and yet the product that was delivered was most professional. A clever show that hit all of the senses.