A new theatrical adaptation of George Orwell’s novel “1984” was so graphic, people in the audience started vomiting and screaming, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The play, co-written and directed by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillian, debuted in London Thursday and caused much upheaval in the audience.
Following one performance, police had to quickly break up a fight between audience members, which escalated after the play’s gore provoked strong reactions.
Olivia Wilde and Tom Sturridge starred as Julia and Winston Smith. Sturridge broke his nose from a punch Wilde threw for the performance, while Wilde also was injured when she broke her tail bone during previews.
“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,” said Macmillian. “We can sanitize that and make people feel comforted, or we can simply present it without commentary and allow it to speak for itself.”
The production features strobe lights, hammer noise effects and blood during the torture scenes of Winston, which a New York Times theater critic referred to as almost a form of “torture porn.”
“You can stay and watch or you can leave — that’s a perfectly fine reaction to watching someone be tortured,” Icke added. “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,” despite the public outcry if the performance is too gruesome due to an audience member fainting during the debut on Broadway, Thursday.