Olivia Wilde’s broadway debut is leaving audiences absolutely reeling.
The play, based on George Orwell’s dystopian novel, includes special effects like strobe lights, and scenes of torture.
During the play’s preview run in London, audience members have vomited, fainted, and even yelled at the actors on stages.
At one performance, some attendees were so incensed that they got into a heated argument, which resulted in the police being called and charged filed.
“I’m not surprised, since this experience is unique, bold and immersive,” Wilde told the Hollywood Reporter after the play’s opening night on Thursday. “It allows you to empathize in a visceral way, and that means making the audience physically and emotionally uncomfortable.”
Wilde has had her own tough experiences with the play, having broken her tailbone and dislocated a rib during previews.
Responding to criticism that “1984” is too intense and that some scenes are “political torture porn,” the play’s directors, Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, have stood by their vision.
“We’re not trying to be willfully assaultive or exploitatively shock people, but there’s nothing here or in the disturbing novel that isn’t happening right now, somewhere around the world: people are being detained without trial, tortured and executed,” said Macmillan. “We can sanitize that and make people feel comforted, or we can simply present it without commentary and allow it to speak for itself.”
“You can stay and watch or you can leave — that’s a perfectly fine reaction to watching someone be tortured,” Icke said. “But if this show is the most upsetting part of anyone’s day, they’re not reading the news headlines. Things are much worse than a piece of theater getting under your skin a little bit.”
Security guards have been positioned throughout the theatre for performances of the play.
Meanwhile, the play has instituted a strict age restriction, to audiences of 13 or older, after a 7-year-old child was spotted at one show.
Wilde also makes clear that the play is not meant to play exclusively to one side of the political spectrum.
“The term ‘Orwellian’ is used by both sides of the aisle, and members of the right really claim this book as their own, so I hope they come see it,” said Wilde. “I hope this show makes people question everything they’re being told. All we’re saying is, the truth matters.”