Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillian’s acclaimed adaptation of George Orwell’s influential novel 1984, returned to London’s Playhouse Theatre for a limited season in 2016. Premiering at the Nottingham Playhouse in 2013, Headlong’s pertinent play had toured internationally, with two West End runs under its belt. Accumulating rave reviews, 1984 returned to London once more, for a limited 12 week season at London’s Playhouse Theatre.
In June 2016 Andrew made his West End debut as the main character Winston Smith at The Playhouse London. In May 2016 he was announced as part of the new cast alongside Rosie Ede, Catrin Stewart and Angus Wright. The production ran from 14 June to 29 October 2016, daily from Monday to Saturday with additional matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays. (The initial run until 3 September 2016 was later extended to the end of October)
Andrew describes his character Winston Smith in an interview with Theatre.com:
How would you describe Winston?
I see him as a man who is forever trying to find an answer to his problem when there is never an answer but only further questions. The book doesn’t give you answers and I don’t think the play should either, beyond the fact that Winston starts the play not really knowing who he is and is constantly trying to find an identity and in a way only realizes by the end how happy he has been.
Andrew answered a number of questions regarding his career leading up to 1984 and the production itself in an interview with Broadway World, including the question what his room 101 would be:
What would be in your Room 101?
Room 101 for me is crisps. Though my explanation as to why would take up this whole interview. So I won’t go into detail. But that’s my Room 101.
Andrew explained this answer further in his video interview with Double Yay Productions in August 2017.
What themes really spoke to you? Do you view anything differently after your experience of the play?
The theme from the play that jumps out to me, especially playing Winston, is the search for identity – whether that’s through hate, love, fear, science, religion or war. Britain so recently voting to leave the EU, with bold phrases like “Take back our identity”, “Take back the power”, “Make Britain how it used to be”. Take back the power from whom? What is our identity? How did it used to be?
The masses are very angry with today’s politicians. We are being lied to on a daily basis. So, in a nutshell, the play is more relevant than it has ever been. Orwell had a very accurate foresight of today’s dystopian world we live in. If only he was around to see it…
(Source: Broadway World)
Andrew Gower paints (Winston Smith) as the terrified rebel with ease, brimming with nervous energy that spills over into determined fervour as Winston decides his course of action. The fear in his eyes as he faces Room 101 seems so genuine that you can’t help but remain gripped, and feel petrified on his behalf. This is a career defining performance from Gower.
(Source: Please Mind The Blog)
The protagonist of the show is Winston Smith (bravely acted by Andrew Gower).
Overall the cast were well suited to their roles, but there were two performers who controlled the stage and our attention with blistering intensity: Andrew Gower as Winston and Angus Wright as the enigmatic, charismatic O’Brien.
Gower’s gormless stumbling about the staged juxtaposed with his profound and deeply philosophical monologues perfectly captured the conflicted but clueless hero of the tale.
(Source: Get West London)
Andrew Gower excels as Winston, despite hardly speaking for the first several scenes;
(Source: London Theatre)
Winston Smith, played superbly by Andrew Gower
(Source: Essential Surrey)
Andrew Gower, who plays Winston, has a hint of Michael Sheen about him and gives an outstanding performance. He stumbles about and looks confused and then satisfied as he forms the relationship with Julia (Catrin Stewart – good). In the torture scene – so graphic it makes the blinding in King Lear look like a tea party – bloodied, bowed and terrified Gower is totally, and horrifyingly convincing.
(Source: Susan Elkin)
Being Human favourite Andrew Gower takes on the lead role of Winston with perfection, being suitably nervous and intense where appropriate. His character was only slightly relatable, which was a bold artistic decision I think; he could have just as easily made the character someone all of the audience could feel involved with throughout the show, but it felt as though he was one of us and then torn away from us all under one breath which just added to the intensity of the piece.
(Source: London Theatre Direct)
Andrew Gower put on an incredible performance as Winston – his frustration and pain felt by the audience.
Gower’s acting in Room 101 had me wincing, and also amazed at his ability to speak as though his teeth had been pulled out.
(Source: SW Londoner)
Unlike Orwell’s Winston, who preserves a neutral facade to escape being caught for thoughtcrime, Andrew Gower’s is flustered, frenzied and breathless. It verges on exhausting watching him in such a lengthy state of abject fear, and our sympathy for his downfall is lessened because of the ease with which he is tricked.
Rather, it is in moments of restraint and stillness that Winston’s emotion is most powerful in expressing the immensity of injustice in his right to freedom being taken away from him. Angus Wright, plays O’Brien – the Inner Party member who Winston thinks might have some connection to the resistance – with a chilling slickness that also helps to make this production so potent.
(Source: Culture Whisper)
Harrowing, visionary, thought-provoking and brilliantly devised, this isn’t a play for the squeamish. (…)
Andrew Gower’s Smith tries desperately to hold on to his memories but rebellion almost costs him his sanity and his life.
We first meet him trying to make sense of everything. He looks bewildered, uncomprehending, not sure that he is being told the truth. What is the truth? Big Brother’s version of events or reality?
He thinks that he has found allies – first in a woman, Julia (Catrin Stewart), who claims she loves him and is on his side – and then a man, O’Brien, who says that he works for the opposition.
Gower has an expressive face – in that he looks permanently baffled at what is happening around him – yet he fails to fully capture the anger and frustration that Smith feels. Instead his voice rises at the end of every sentence as though every statement is a question. Perhaps it is. He questions authority and look where it gets him – Room 101.
(Source: Stage Review)
our lead man Winston – played flawlessly by Andrew Gower
(Source: Go West London)
Andrew Gower, playing Winston Smith, really brings this aspect to life. The scars of oppression are laid barefaced and the mental struggle of dealing with bitter isolation doused with sporadic moments of hope is brilliantly delivered, allowing the audience to experience the nightmarish state and by proxy relate it to society in 2016.
(Source: The London Economic)
Andrew Gower storms to victory as he leads this cast as confused Winston. Mute for most of his opening moments, there’s an uncomfortable approach to his character that’s strangely appealing throughout. Attacked at regular intervals throughout, Andrew’s performances soars in a world, and character, that’s desperate to keep him locked down.
(Source: Gay Times)
The acting is solid throughout, with Andrew Gower (Being Human) as Winston Smith and Hilton McRae as O’Brien bringing fireworks to Room 101, while Doctor Who actress Catrin Stewart impresses as Julia, the woman who prompts Winston to rebel.
(Source: Cult Box)
And of course, in true Orwell style, nothing is quite what it seems. The performance itself is censored as it goes along, with certain characters erased mid-scene and others shape shifting before our eyes. As Winston, Andrew Gower navigated this minefield of truth and trust with an air of perpetual anxiety that eventually spills over into complete hysteria during the Room 101 scene, the dark heart of the story.
(Source: Worthing Herold)
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