What was your very first connection with 1984?
As a hungrily devoured school text alongside Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. To a literarily precocious teenager who fancied herself a bit of rebel, the concept of ‘dystopia’ seemed thrillingly cool. I was also dorky enough not to get that Jane Austen was a satirist and pronounced her boring.
What does 1984 mean to you?
I’ve always thought of it as the great twentieth-century warning bell against totalitarianism. Every time I hear it chime, I also hear John Donne’s “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Do you have a favourite Orwell quote?
“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” And “By the time he is fifty, each man has the face he deserves.”
What is your most enduring memory of the book?
The fabulous sensory descriptions of some of the minor characters: how, to Winston, Mrs Parsons looks like she has dust in the creases of her wrinkles – and then discovers she actually does. (I’m clearly old enough to have the face Mrs Parson’s deserves.)
How important do you think it is for audiences to see 1984 onstage now, in 2017?
Every day on the news I hear ‘truth’ and ‘facts’ twisted and bent and I think 1984 opens us up to new ways of seeing and hearing.