Seven years on from its world premiere at Greenwich Theatre in 2012, and following a New York transfer in 2014, the acclaimed theatrical cabaret One Georgie Orwell is back in a brand new production by Creative Vortex. Timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the publication of 1984, this uniquely theatrical evening celebrates the life and work of one of this country’s most revered writers and features excerpts from Animal Farm, Keep The Aspidistra Flying, 1984 and others, along with a host of unforgettable songs. This vibrant young theatre group developed out of Goldsmiths, London University, has given a new lease of life to One Georgie Orwell.
“One of the great things about the show was showing the material to the group of musicians and them jumping at the chance even though three of them were doing their finals at Goldsmiths in New Cross,” said artistic director Tom Powell. “I agree with writer Peter Cordwell that appreciation of George Orwell is almost always academic, but this is a celebration of a great human being whose warnings are probably more relevant now than they were in 1949.”
Creative Vortex’s immersive style of theatre has covered the trial of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in this country in 1955, and they toured in 2018 with Devils On Horseback, the story of conscientious objectors from Deptford in the First World War. The latter was written by Professor Tim Crook from Goldsmiths in New Cross, who is also a member of the Orwell Society. “Tim is an inspirational character whose book The Secret Life of a Secret Agent inspired the BBC TV drama Mrs Wilson,” said Powell. “He then became the link to ‘Georgie’ and it all went from there. “There’s a real truth and warmth to the show which has been brilliant to explore through the songs, narration and Orwell’s own words from his books and essays. The only difficulty has been time with so much to fit in, but we hope to start booking the 2020 tour around September/October. “What I love about it is that it gives people the pathway to Orwell in a joyful way outside of the academic arena. It’s also very flexible. The script can be broken down and put together again in various forms. It’s a great project to work on.”
Cordwell, 71, former editor of the SE London Mercury and Greenwich Time – where he worked for 12 years on what turned out to be an Orwellian zero hours contract – put One Georgie Orwell together thanks to two crucial colleagues. “James Haddrell at Greenwich Theatre said go for it after I came up with the idea during an interview, despite having no previous experience,” said Peter, “and meeting Carl Picton’s father in the car park at Sainsbury’s, Lee Green, was straight from heaven. Carl is the real talent behind ‘Georgie’ and it was just wonderful to work with him on the eight songs. “The first few were jigsaw words that Carl threw in the air and put together with amazing skill and terrific tunes, and when he said that the last couple – Grouchy Marxist and 1984 – more or less just needed the tunes, you can imagine how happy it made an old man… I’ve updated the narration to give Donald, Theresa, Boris, Jacob and Alastair due consideration, and Tony still stars in the first line of the first song. Him and Orwell both being born as Blairs was an absolute godsend, obviously.”
James Haddrell, the theatre’s artistic and executive director, said: “The show remains a proletarian celebration of one of the greatest writers of the 20th century who is still quoted almost every day in the 21st, but audiences are also introduced to great characters like George Bowling and Gordon Comstock.”
One Georgie Orwell is on at Greenwich Theatre, Crooms Hill, London SE10 8ES, UK. Time: 26th May at 7.30pm. Admission: £13. Phone: 020 8858 7755