In adapting George Orwell’s 1984 for its current stage production (at the Hudson Theatre), the writer-directors Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan have chosen to begin at an unusual place in the text: the end. To be more specific: the appendix. Icke and Macmillan think the appendix is the key to the whole novel.

Were you even aware 1984 has an appendix? I’m not sure you were. You may not have noticed it. Entitled Principles of Newspeak, this coda is a pastiche of a boring scholarly note explaining the idiosyncrasies of Big Brother’s preferred language. Yet it is dated 2050, and these numerals mark the end of the book. What jumps out to Icke and Macmillan, and it is a clever notion, is that the appendix is itself written in what we might, to coin a retronym, call Oldspeak. Newspeak,...


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