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Guest Blog: Adam McKenzie Wylie On A 1984 For The Coronavirus Age

Guest Blog: Adam McKenzie Wylie On A 1984 For The Coronavirus Age
Adam McKenzie Wylie

Histrionic Productions' is an inventive theatre company with a mission, to deliver a new, gold standard in live theatrical experiences by bringing the world's most renowned titles to a burgeoning younger audience and traditional theatregoers alike.

CEO Adam McKenzie Wylie talks about the company's inaugural production of George Orwell's 1984, which will open next spring, and how the thematic serendipity of this production allows for the seamless incorporation of social distancing and PPE.

"What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening,"
President Donald Trump, July 2018

In the month after Trump's 2017 inauguration, sales of Orwell's dystopian masterpiece 1984 were up 9,500% (according to the New York Times), taking it back to the top of the bestseller's list.

As the next US Presidential election looms, fake news, alternative facts and the gathering clouds of the surveillance state seem to hang over us all. The world has been in lockdown, and our reliance on news in all its forms has never been more definitive in shaping our actions. Our social circles are limited, while track and trace schemes may soon monitor our every move. In a world full of evocations of 'newspeak' and 'doublethink', it does not feel hyperbolic to say, 70 years after the great man's death, 'we live in Orwellian times'.

For six months before lockdown, we had been developing our first title, 1984. We announced the launch of Histrionic Productions, together with our plans for the title in early March, never expecting 'dystopian' to so forcibly re-enter the vernacular within the month.

With an Olivier Award-winning team behind us, our business has been established to find new ways for audiences across the globe to experience theatre through large-scale, multi-sensory events, targeting a younger demographic and thrill-seekers looking for powerful, participatory, live entertainment. These events are ambitious, ground-breaking and crucially - because of the in-built attributes of format and venue - readily C-19 compliant.

Guest Blog: Adam McKenzie Wylie On A 1984 For The Coronavirus Age In the next two years working in the UK and US, we intend to hire over 200 production and performance staff, offer tickets for sale to three million people and put over £20 million back into the global theatrical ecosystem. There has never been a more important time for innovation and investment into our precious industry.

Our theatrical experiences eschew the constraints (and the C-19 compliance issues) of the proscenium production for the scale and flexibility of the found space: a building site, a park, a disused warehouse - all can become home to the entertainment hubs we will build, and the major IP we will present in them.

1984, due to open in London in the spring and New York soon thereafter, offers us more than just thematic serendipity. The title provides the opportunity to incorporate high levels of social distancing, PPE, screening and protocols seamlessly into the narrative. For example, everyone attending will wear disposable overalls, temperatures will be taken upon arrival (with full refunds offered to those showing fevers), and the visor-clad Thought Police will fulfil the dual roles of cast and compliance. Even the food and beverage offering (an integral part of the experience) in Airstrip One will be compliant, providing a diverting but thematically consistent counterpoint to the brutal cautionary narrative.

I want Histrionic Productions to be seen at the vanguard of companies that can stage new and exciting work that helps the industry back on its feet and brings audiences back to live theatre. If we can achieve that and we can present 1984 as a compelling, multi-sensory theatrical experience for Orwell fans and newcomers alike, we may just help propagate his warning too.

Sign up for first release tickets to 1984 at

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