To commemorate the 60th anniversary of George Orwell’s seminal novel, Paper Zoo Theatre Company is staging a special production of 1984, at the National Media Museum’s Pictureville Cinema, and featuring award winning actor, John Hurt, who appears on screen as Big Brother.
Collaboration with this acting legend is the latest coup for Paper Zoo, who earned critical acclaim and a loyal following for their innovative productions since their formation by the cream of the College’s performing arts alumni and staff in 2005. Involving John Hurt, who played Winston Smith in the film, was the brainwave of company member, and Festival Producer at the Media Museum, Ben Eagle. It provided a fantastic opportunity for company member, Martin Knowles, who is in the final months of his degree in Film & Moving Image Production, to direct the filming.
Martin recalled, “Originally we weren’t too sure how we were going to portray Big Brother. We had discussed just filming someone’s eyes. Then when Ben had the idea to ask John Hurt and contacted his agent, we never expected him to say yes. When we heard that he had agreed my first thought was ‘Brilliant’ and then I thought ‘Oh no, I am going to have to direct him!’ This was scary as I admire him so much. There are so many ‘celebrity actors' about but he is an actor’s actor – the real deal. The prospect of giving someone of that magnitude direction was intimidating.
Ben and I went with two representatives from the Media Museum to film him at the Science Museum in London during mid February. When he initially walked in I felt my hands shaking with nerves. As I was talking to him about the character I could hear myself, almost like an out of body experience, and I felt quite awkward. He was a little reticent at first. He didn’t know us and also he is a method actor, so he would have been getting into the Big brother character.
But as I started to relax and told him about our theatre company and how passionately I believed that Bradford needed cultural regeneration not shops, he really warmed up and from then on things went like a dream. It is a testament to the genuine nature of John Hurt that when I became myself, a lad from Bradford, he responded. By the end of the day we had such a good time, sharing ongoing jokes throughout filming, recording and photography, that I didn’t want it to end. It was an incredible experience.”
As fans of previous Paper Zoo productions will confirm, Martin is a gifted actor of great sensitivity and charm, and this informs his ideas about filmmaking. He explains, “When I leave film school I want to do a lot of static shots like French filmmakers. Coming from an acting background, I know how actors work best and I see so much work that is over-rehearsed. Over time the emotion is diluted so I much prefer to capture the first take, when the actors are full of adrenalin and excitement.”
This very special production is being staged at 7.30pm on Wednesday on 3rd June. Tickets are now available from the National Media Museum ( Box office: 0870 701 0200) priced £12 (£9 concessions).
Demand is expected to be very high, so early booking is advisable.