Violent, 'vomit-inducing' play 1984 coming to New Zealand

A play that caused audiences to faint and vomit is coming to Auckland.

1984, a stage adaptation of George Orwell's classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, has caused audience hysteria over the last four years of its London run, largely thanks to its graphic torture scenes.

Audience members fainted, vomited and at one point shouted at the actors onstage, begging them to stop the performance, the Washington Post reported. After one show police were called to the theatre to break up a fight.

Co-written and directed by Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan, 1984 has had three seasons in London's West End, an Australian tour and a season on Broadway starring Olivia Wilde. 

One audience member reportedly fainted during the show's Broadway debut on June 22.

1984 revolves around the character of Winston Smith, who lives in a totalitarian state controlled by an oppressive government. 

Much of the play's violence involves Winston's torture, which includes beating, electric shocks and a cage of rats being strapped to Winston's head. The scenes are accompanied by piercing strobe lighting and the sounds of a jackhammer.

In a New York Times review of the show's Hudson Theatre run, Ben Brantley warned prospective audiences about 1984's "titillating violence".

"Though I usually don't provide trigger warnings in my reviews, I feel obliged to do so here. The interrogations that Winston undergoes in the play's second half are graphic enough to verge on torture porn."

A warning on the Broadway website says the production contains "graphic depictions of violence and torture", and that children under 13 will not be admitted.

Sales of Orwell's dystopian novel skyrocketed after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, whose administration has been accused of using Orwellian language such as "alternative facts" and "fake news".

Co-creator Icke has defended the show's violence, citing its continued relevance.

"If this show is the most upsetting part of anyone's day, they're not reading the news headlines. Things are much worse than a piece of theatre getting under your skin a little bit."

Jonathan Bielski, artistic director of the Auckland Arts Festival, called the play "chillingly eerie" in its depiction of a totalitarian government. 

"1984 no longer seems like a novel but a horrifying prediction of what we are now experiencing."

1984 shows at the Auckland Arts Festival from March 9 - 25.