The University of Melbourne in association with Melbourne Festival presents

Language, Performance and Power


Check back soon for panelist announcements

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty–Four has been described as the ‘definitive book’ of the twentieth century. Indeed, so powerful were the themes of his novel that terms and concepts such as Big Brother, Doublespeak and Thoughtcrime have entered the lexicon, and realised his warning about the often insidious relationship between language and power.

In Nineteen Eighty–Four the totalitarian government plans to abolish the English language altogether in favour of their official language Newspeak, designed to control the populace and eradicate individual thought.

Anatomising in a world where there is no longer a word for ‘science’ and the concept of Freedom has been eroded, Orwell explores the links between language, politics and psychology, the rewriting of history, and the manufacturing of the past.

This event brings together speakers from the University of Melbourne to discuss Headlong’s production of 1984, the history of the impact of Orwell’s novel and its relevance nearly 70 years after it was first published in 1949. What are the lessons of Nineteen Eighty–Four for the era of rendition, electric surveillance and the media landscape of today? What if a contemporary Orwell was to write 2051?


Denise Varney

Denise Varney is Professor of Theatre Studies and co-director of the Australian Centre in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. Her contribution to the international field of Theatre Studiers includes her role as co-convenor of the Feminist Research Working Group of the International Federation for Theatre Research (2010-2015). She publishes on Brechtian and contemporary German theatre, feminist criticism and performance, women’s theatre, modern Australian Theatre and contemporary drama and performance. She is currently working on an ARC funded research project on the theatre of Patrick White 1962-2015.

Robert Hassan

Robert Hassan teaches, reads and writes at the intersections of temporality, technology and political economy. His most recent book Philosophy of Media will be published in 2016.

Daniel Raggett

Associate Director of 1984 and Associate Artist of HighTide Festival Theatre.

More panelists to be announced soon.