Bold British stage version of ‘1984’ being developed as a limited TV series

Cast members of "1984" onstage at Santa Monica's Broad Stage
The 2013 British stage version of “1984,” seen performed at Santa Monica’s Broad Stage in 2016, is being developed as a limited series for TV.
(Ben Gibbs)

This might be the least Orwellian thing to happen recently: An independent studio is developing a five-part limited-series TV adaptation of the stage version of the book “1984.”

Wiip, a studio run by BBC America founder and former ABC executive Paul Lee, bought the rights to the 2013 theatrical take that was adapted by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan from George Orwell’s 1949 novel. The project is being overseen by David Flynn, who said in a statement that the story “has never been more relevant.”

Added playwrights Icke and Macmillan: “As the world grapples with democracy and government in our divided age of surveillance, ‘fake news’ and truth decay, the urgency of Orwell’s masterpiece is undeniable. The small screen feels like a natural home for his portrait of a society in which people trust their screens more than the world outside their windows.”


The English novelist’s book imagines a dystopian society where individuality is banned, Newspeak is the preferred tongue — which is ungood — and the “truth” as defined by a totalitarian government is ever-changing. Thoughtcrime is a real thing.

When literary classics are adapted for the stage with kid gloves, Masterpiece Tedium is usually the result.

Jan. 14, 2016

Though the novel has been adapted myriad times for the big screen, small screen, stages and radio, this bold British version had remained in theaters until now.

“In a world in which two plus two is said to no longer equal four, reality is nearly impossible to pin down,” The Times’ theater critic Charles McNulty said in his 2016 review of the show as performed at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica.

“This production, exhibiting remarkable concentration when it’s needed most, allows us to viscerally experience the brutality of such a regime. The staging is clamorous, but when the performers speak you may find yourself leaning in to hear them,” McNulty added.

As the limited series is still in development, there is no word yet on when or where it might air.