Ham Sandwich tackles Orwell with 1984 stage show

A darker turn is in store for the next Ham Sandwich show this weekend.

The troupe’s latest production is a stage adaptation of George Orwell’s famous dystopian tale 1984, detailing day-to-day life, love, repression and persecution in an authoritarian surveillance state.

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“There are many aspects of the book in the play. You have to kind of summarize what’s in the book and abridge it a little bit, modify it a bit, but it is true to Orwell’s story,” said director Tom Heine.

Heine said the play is a departure from the troupe’s typical fare, especially from the group’s last show, a pantomime adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island.

“It’s a serious play. There’s not a heck of a lot of humour in it, let’s put it that way. It’s quite prescient with what our world has evolved into,” he said.

Alain Lachapelle will assume the role of central character Winston Smith, a minor member of the all-encompassing Party system who hopes to rebel against the authority. Julia, Winston’s partner in crime, will be played by Landice Yestrau, while Party insider O’Brien will be played by Joe Buie. Amanda Unrau, Jordana Oulette and Piper Sapergia-Green, as well as Ham Sandwich veterans Cheryl Feszczyn, Beth Heine, Susan Gunn, Carrie Hume and Leslie Fernandes also have supporting roles.

When the play was first announced earlier this year, Heine said participants were excited to take part.

“We have a super keen cast on this. When we announced that we were going to do 1984, we had the principals come up and say, ‘I want to do it. I want to do it,’” said Heine.

“They were fully aware that this was something much more serious than we’ve done before and they embraced the whole nine yards. They were keen to expand their horizons and take on not just new roles, but serious roles.”

Heine sees the play as not only an entertaining work, but a work that has become increasingly relevant over time.

“Everybody has viewed Big Brother as some big evil entity, always watching you. Guess what? We’ve not only got Big Brother, but we’ve embraced and welcomed Big Brother into our homes. We’ve attached some nicer names to it – Siri, Cortana, Alexa – pretty names and they listen all the time,” he said.

“I hope people realize that it has a serious message and I hope they come away with something positive.”

The show hits the RH Channing Auditorium stage on March 8-9, with doors opening at 7 p.m.

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