Why People Faint at the Theater

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

Consciousness is the foundation of the human experience. Lose it even temporarily, however, and it becomes clear how delicate the whole structure is.

This has become clear to certain audience members at the current Broadway production of 1984, which is running until October 8. There have been reports of viewers fainting, vomiting, fighting, and experiencing seizures due to the play’s vivid torture scenes (including electrocution) and confrontational attitude toward the audience (including actors shouting at viewers about their complicity).

Codirector Robert Icke is used to this by now. Before transferring to New York, the production ran for several years in London. Particularly in its first year, he told me, the first-aid charity “St. John Ambulance used to park outside the matinees in