Animal Farm

Wed 26th – Fri 28th February 2014

reviews

Olivia Fletcher

at 23:58 on 26th Feb 2014

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As the second Orwellian adaptation of the term, ‘Animal Farm’ was an ambitious, though turned out to be a fairly generic production of the important allegorical classic. As one of the most iconic fictions of the twentieth century this production is enjoyable albeit a little comfortable and at times can be tiresome and laborious. ‘Animal Farm’ has a delicate anatomy and, in particular, a peculiar motor that is difficult to get just right. This interpretation thrived between the revolution and the break down of order; it played a particular strength in the depiction of internal control and desperation. The inclusion of beautiful visual displays and contemporary dance was outstanding.

The play also had merits in its character which it built upon meticulously detailed stage design and a well thought out, appropriate apparel. It was a well depicted mess of Russian peasantry and menagerie-sty.

James McMillan gave an ear-deafening performance as the harrowing harbinger of poverty, destruction and totalitarianism. He played the role of the conscious future which gave a persistent feeling of foreboding. It was this gentle oscillation between wholly animalistic and unmistakably, sentient human which held the play together and gave it curious character.

Another actor worthy of amendment was Tris Hobson who played ‘Moses’ the far from crass crow. Hobson morphed himself in to the role in an almost rhapsodic fashion. Never flinching nor breaking the role, the sudden bursts of flight (interpreted through hasty sprinting from one side of the stage to another) were entertaining and convincing from start to finish. Animalistic performances were, in general, a great success.

The play was both made brilliant by though somehow downtrodden by its tidiness and neatness. It was not laid back at all. Scenes ended abruptly, just like the animals who proclaimed ‘we must work harder’ the actors were visibly tired, and trawling through scenes. Though, this achieved its desired effect: the play was psychologically wearying. It was structured, laboured and just like the stage and costumes, extremely embellished. So much so that, at times, it was impossible to appreciate each detail as it passed by.

Perfection is very much active within ‘Animal Farm’ and the play had a visible drive towards climactic performance, but somehow this eye for detail had a tendency to come across as clumsy and contrived. But not always. Certain parts were rushed past our eyes as flashing images, plot fillers rather than parts of the play in their own right. Other parts were beautifully performed, complicated and did not contain a feeling of haste. It was this contrast between the two which became a kind of teasing and eventually frustration.

If you have read the novel, inevitably you will find it upsetting to find that certain parts have been cut or shortened. However, the play felt long enough in its full 90 minutes of glory and understandably not all parts of the novel could be included. However, perhaps a clearer, more thought out cut of the text needed to be made. Instead of focus on driving the plot forward, there needed to be more attention to particular scenes which were particularly beautiful because they were beautiful and left a residue of wanting more. Scenes of contemplation needed their allotted time for contemplation rather than a 30 second gap in between running and chaos.

Needless to say, Animal Farm holds a tremendous sense of prestige and sentimentality and therefore it would be impossible to create a perfect stage adaptation. This production is enjoyable, though not riveting, it is beautiful and intense.

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