To Orwell Today,

Hi again Jackie,

In my head for the last year or so I've had the germ of an idea for a George Orwell musical play. I think the idea links to the thought we both have (and maybe many more people have as well) of a tribute to Eric Arthur Blair - and, as a lover of the genre, I think that some kind of musical play (maybe even with some modern dance) would fit the bill in a creative and very satisfying way.

The basic idea, apart from some asides and comments by a narrator, would be to use only Orwell's own words because, as we both know, they stand wonderfully by themselves. The play would obviously NOT be short of material and would have automatic and amazing visual appeal (Burmese Days; D & O in P & L; The Road to...; Keep the, etc..; Homage to...; Coming Up...; Animal Farm & 1984). Indeed, it would be a mammoth task that would probably need half a dozen contributors in different areas.

You are no doubt the best person in the world to choose Orwell's words, Jackie. The bold type in your various contributions would be the perfect place to start! I work as a newspaper editor, so hopefully I could do a fair job in the editing.

I've written the lyrics to three or four songs and obviously it will be open to question whether they are good enough. I have a good friend called Billy Jenkins who is a world-class musician but he is unlikely to want to get involved (I think it's fair to say) but perhaps he has one or two contacts who might be up for a preliminary chat - or maybe you yourself know someone.

Another initial thought is that maybe the play could be created with a youth theatre in mind. We have several good ones in this area (and no doubt you have), and the idea of putting Orwell forward to more young minds is particularly attractive.

One problem, of course, is that we are all busy people and it might be something to work on when I eventually retire. But I thought I'd just put the idea out to see what you think. I'm getting away for a week from tomorrow and won't be near a computer (!) but it would be good to hear your thoughts when I get back.

Here's the draft first verse 'Winston Smith':

Winston! Winston!
I knew it in an instant
I could see it in your face and I could see it in your eyes
I knew like me you never fell for Big Brother's lies
I know it sounds peculiar
But I love you, I'm Julia
Can you get away on Sunday?
I know where we can go
Where we can lie and watch the sky
And the Party will never know

Best wishes,
Peter Cordwell

Greetings Peter,

Hope you had a good week away.

I love your idea of a musical play about Orwell and hope you retire soon so you can devote more time to orchestrating the whole thing. Count me in for input wherever I can help.

I'll share your email with other readers who may have ideas about the idea.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

Hi Jackie,

I stayed in Oxford and went to Orwell's grave (I much prefer Orwell to Blair, probably because of our ex-Prime Minister). I was joined almost immediately by a man who turned out to be Czech and had escaped from Prague in 1968. He's retired now (aged 64) but was a physicist. He said how they were never allowed to read Orwell and numerous other authors (Solzhenitsyn, of course) but how difficult his escape made it for his family. His older brother was never allowed to travel abroad under the communist regime.

Feel free to share the email and perhaps you can ask if anyone out there might like to get involved (do you sense a strange inertia among people when it comes to Orwell? I would be interested in the feedback you get), but really it would be great to have your own involvement because there's so much depth and authority about your work....(I won't be able to retire until I am 65 in 2012). We can then see how it goes and be easy about it.

I see the play starting with Boxer being taken away, then going into Orwell himself in one way or another. I'm very aware of how busy we both are, but as long as it's enjoyable and worthwhile (was there ever a more worthwhile project than to promote this amazing human being?), and we avoid pressure, it should be okay.

Best wishes,
Peter Cordwell
(The marvellous essays would also feature, of course)

Hi Peter,

It's great you went to Orwell's grave, and maybe the red rose was in bloom like it was when I was there in 2003.

Rose on Grave Graveyard View

It must have been pleasing for Orwell to hear your discussion there with the Czech man who was paying homage to the great writer who touched the souls of people all over the world suffering under communism. I have an article about Czechoslovakia at GOOD KING WENCESLAS PLEASE LOOK OUT.

I agree that there's a strange inertia among people when it comes to Orwell - especially in England, America, Australia etc where people can't yet relate to what he's describing. In our education systems no one is taught the truth about communism's Stalin and Mao who we sided with in WWII (something most people don't really realize). It's a cover-up, just as it was when Orwell was writing, and why he couldn't get HOMAGE TO CATALONIA or ANIMAL FARM published - something he was extremely disgusted about, and why he had to write "1984" in code. See ORWELL'S PUBLISHING PROBLEMS and WHY ORWELL WROTE 1984

But to people who have suffered or are suffering under tyrants in totalitarian systems there is no inertia about Orwell because he so piercingly penetrates to the cause of their situation, and his books are therefore meaningful to them. See, for example, FINDING ORWEL IN BURMA

It's only now - as Orwell's nightmare world is starting to come to fruition in the Western World - that people here are starting to catch on to the greatness of Orwell. As Orwell himself said, in his role as Winston writing his diary:

"For whom, it suddenly occurred to him to wonder, was he writing this diary?
For the future, for the unborn?
For the first time the magnitude of what he had undertaken came home to him.
How could you communicate with the future? It was of its nature impossible.
Either the future would resemble the present,
in which case it would not listen to him:
or it would be different from it,
and his predicament would be meaningless."

That's why - before it's too late and we've become like Oceania in "1984" - it's important, as you say, to promote this amazing human being any way we can. With me it's through the website "Orwell Today" and with you it's through your Orwell poetry and ultimately a musical play danced across the stage.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~