Even before 1984’s official Broadway opening on Thursday night, audiences on the Great White Way were — at times quite literally — struggling to stomach the production’s combination of prescient themes and viscerally experimental staging. There have been multiple cases of fainting and vomiting at the show since it’s been in previews, police have intervened because of audience members screaming at actors (and each other) mid-performance, and earlier this week, a mandatory age restriction for entry was implemented. But ask the people behind this reimagining of 1984, and they’ll tell you that these reactions are, well, kind of the point. Co-director Robert Icke told The Hollywood Reporter on opening night that “this is designed to hit you hard” before imploring audiences to “take that [warning] seriously.” (He also added that walking out is “a perfectly fine reaction to watching someone be tortured.”) His partner, Duncan Macmillan, confirmed that they’re “not trying to be willfully assaultive or exploitatively shock people” with the graphic sequences — how nice! — but merely reflect what is “happening right now.” It’s not a bad strategy: Textual resonance of 1984 aside, provoking people to vomit in disgust and argue until the cops show up is a pretty good way of nailing 2017. Just ask Julius Caesar.
Audiences are having a strong reaction to this. Photo: Julieta Cervantes