Seeing 1984 With George Orwell’s Son
Blair, who formerly worked in farming and now spends most of his time in a village in Warwickshire, has the amicable good manners of a contestant on The Great British Bake Off. He’s in New York for a whirlwind visit that includes the opening of 1984 as well various appointments related to the Orwell Foundation and Society, of which he is a patron. The play, about two Outer Party members, Wynston (Tom Sturridge) and Julia (Olivia Wilde), who turn against Big Brother, is bigger, brighter, and louder than the version Blair saw in London. It’s a striking decision, Blair says, and a sign that the Broadway production has amped-up its budget. “As long you get the book’s meaning across …,” he muses as we walk out of the theater, and right then he’s pulled into a NY1 TV interview about the show.
A skilled talker, Blair negotiates this and several other on-camera interviews with ease. He compliments the show. He brings up comparisons between the newspeak in the text and Kellyanne Conway’s use of the phrase “alternative facts,” which sent book sales skyrocketing. He talks about the ways the threat of terrorism can prop up a surveillance state, an element of 1984’s plot that feels particularly resonant today. He even suggests to a cameraman, who had mentioned that getting assigned 1984 in high school taught him to “read between the lines,” that he should pick up a copy of Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.