Ukraine: Air raid sirens interrupt performance of George Orwell’s ‘1984’ on stage in Kyiv

Air raid sirens interrupt performance of George Orwell’s '1984' on stage in Kyiv

In a theatre in Kyiv, a fresh rendition of 1984 has debuted. With the Russian invasion still going on, the dystopian classic has acquired a fresh sense of relevance.

Actors and audience members cheered during the first performance until a bomb siren cut it short.

This month, one of Kyiv’s busiest theatres, Theatre on Podil, reopened for the first time. Residents of Kyiv raced to get tickets for sold-out performances as soon as the theatre opened its doors again.

The theater’s most recent production, a staging of George Orwell’s 1984, strikes at the core of the situation in the nation.

1940s themes that still apply today

The novel, which was released in 1949, portrays a totalitarian regime with little room for free speech and strict mental surveillance, influenced by Nazism and Stalinism.

Just before the play’s first performance since the start of the war, actor Igor Nikolayev said, “It’s so topical that you just can’t pass it up.” The audience will be even more convinced that it is good and evil, pure evil, after watching this presentation, which “speaks for itself quite plainly.”

Actress Yulia Brusentseva continued, “I can validate every word uttered by George Orwell, as someone who lives it. Not just for Ukrainians but for all of Europe, the play is “very significant.”

Although the novel was written in 1949, according to the description on the theater’s website, “now we are in its imagination.”

The concept of “doublethink,” in which people are forced to think and believe what their political party determines to be the truth, permeates the entire book.

Theatergoers can relate to this theme because they are now living through an invasion that the Russian government claims is a “special military operation” and has banned the use of the terms “invasion,” “attack,” and “war” in the media.

Even more recently, in March, the Russian parliament passed legislation mandating a maximum 15-year prison sentence for disseminating willfully false information about the military and its activities in Ukraine.

Kyiv and its Western allies have referred to this story as a lie.

The audience reacts

The play features scenes that are obviously frightening. 250 people from Kyiv view pictures of torture, dehumanization, police violence, and executions every night.

It’s a very difficult show, both physically and mentally, but it’s not as difficult or unpleasant for the people currently defending our country, according to Nikolayev.

The drama was initially intended to be performed before the war started. The similarities between the characters’ lives and those of many audience members who purchased their tickets before the invasion are difficult to miss.

It’s important to watch 1984 now since there is a conflict, remarked audience member Roman Valenko.

Since the start of the conflict, this is the first opportunity for us to travel. Before the performance started, Tatiana Melnouk remarked, “I believe it’s extremely good, and it’s quite relevant right now.”

The lives of creative professionals have been negatively impacted by the war. Many people working in the business are beginning to notice a return to normalcy as theatres, cinemas, and the Kyiv opera gradually open.

Yuri Felipenko, who portrays the part of O’Brien, an agent of the Thought Police in the book, declares, “This is my first show in four months.” He claims that “culture is part of our country and that we cannot exist without it.”

The Ukrainian people are “not wanted by the Russians.” Keeping culture alive now is our responsibility, according to actress Brusentseva.


Busentseva described the terrible impact the war had on her life. She is from Severodonetsk, a city in the Donbas that the Russian army recently took control of after weeks of nonstop bombing.

“My grandmother remained in occupied Severodonetsk, my mother was able to flee, my uncle was executed,” she claims.

The effects of the war can still be felt in central Kyiv, where it has subsided enough for theatres to open. A bomb alert caused the concert on Saturday to be cut short.

A missile attack that occurred early on Sunday morning in a neighborhood close to the city’s center forced the cancellation of the concert that followed.

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