20/06/2006 - 24/06/2006
By George Orwell
adapted and directed by Richard Finn
“George Orwell’s Animal Farm” is a fast, powerful and frighteningly physical piece of theatre. Loud and brash in places, quiet and intense in others, the twelve Year Two Students prowl, stamp, snort and hurl themselves around a pit of mud.
Performed by graduating students of the NZ College of Performing Arts
Humour doesn't dilute menance
Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 25th Jun 2006
The danger with any stage version of Animal Farm is that Orwell’s "Fairy Story" will remain just that, a fairy story. For actors to wear animal masks is to risk turning the harsh warning of Orwell’s fable and his savage political satire of Stalin’s betrayal of the Russian Revolution into something easily digestible and more than likely cute.
Fortunately, Richard Finn and his cast of twelve 2006 graduating students of NZ College of Performing Arts in their "zero budget" production of this adaptation of a modern classic have relied on their own bodies, voices, and miming skills to suggest the animals who expel Mr Jones from his farm.
The audience sits close to a very cramped stage which gives the production a claustrophobic atmosphere as the animals stage their revolution on the farm, which is suggested by bales of straw, walls of rusty corrugated iron and some wooden pallets. The actors are mostly dressed in grubby long johns with boots or shoes on their hands for hooves and trotters. Oddly, the humans such as Mr Jones and the neighbouring farmers who make business deals with Napoleon appear much less real than the animals.
I don’t remember any humour in the book when I read it many years ago, but it is pleasing that some humour does creep into this production. I particularly liked an upset hen stating that free range eggs does not mean you can take my chooks, which is, I now realise, an indication that the hen was from New Zealand. Also it was good to see Minimus, the self-appointed poet laureate to Napoleon, showing he was arty by wearing a beret.
The cast suggest the animals with broad but effective miming which they sustain well throughout the performance in spite of a great deal of swift action and numerous changes back and forth of roles. Vocally, the actors also impressed, but the high points of the production are when their physicality, their characterisations, and the miming create a sense of danger.
When Napoleon has various animals summarily executed and when he and his followers finally declare that some animals are more equal than others the production achieves a real sense of menace. Orwell’s message has not been diluted in any way.
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