GEORGE Orwell’s classic 1984 is to be dramatised by BBC radio for the first time – almost 70 years after the writer worked at the corporation’s Broadcasting House, which partly inspired his tale.
The author, who is to be celebrated in a season of programmes on Radio 4, based the book’s torture area, Room 101, on a meeting room in the building that he remembered from his time at the BBC.
The adaptation of his dystopian novel will star Christopher Eccleston as the central character, Winston Smith, and will be broadcast in two parts next month.
1984 – published in 1949 – has been brought to life on numerous occasions, including in a movie starring John Hurt, released in the year it was actually set. It was also made into a BBC TV series in 1954 and two years later a British movie starring Edmond O’Brien and Michael Redgrave. Yet despite its status as the home of radio drama, Radio 4 has not adapted it until now, although it was parodied in a sitcom, 1994.
Orwell – the pen name of author Eric Blair, who died 63 years ago last Monday – worked at the BBC’s Broadcasting House in central London during the 1940s and recalled it being “a cross between a girls’ school and a lunatic asylum”.
Orwell began writing 1984 in 1946 when he lived on the Isle of Jura. He saw the island as a welcome escape from London literary life.
The new dramatisation of 1984, which also stars Pippa Nixon and Tim Piggott-Smith, will begin on 10 February.
It is part of a season of programmes, called “The Real George Orwell”, devoted to the writer and his work.
They include adaptions of Animal Farm, featuring Tamsin Greig and Toby Jones; Homage to Catalonia; Burmese Days; and Down and out in Paris and London.