12th Sept 2017
As we enter the auditorium the stage is set - backlit with a low light silhouetting the shapes of a doorway and blocks of buildings, music plays in the background. There is a vaguely menacing feel to it all. The lights go down and the stage lights come up to reveal a run down farm yard - Manor Farm. The cast enter, dressed in black with gold buttons on epaulettes, giving a hint of military uniform. Each one carries a helmet with features to denote which animal they are - cows, chickens, sheep, horses, pigs...And then from the back of the auditorium Old Major speaks. He speaks of change that will come, a revolution, of a time when man will fall, and he warns them to avoid becoming like Man at all costs. The animals respond to his words with baas, moos, clucking. They are then scattered by Mr Jones the farmer.
Jones, played by Patrick Robertson, is a cruel, drunken man who has let his farm go to seed neglecting the crops and mistreating the animals. On day he goes too far and the animals, left unfed rise up against him and chase him from the farm. Old Major's revolution has come!
This production is a collaboration between the People's youth and adult theatres. It is cleverly done with minimal props and costumes, reflecting the austerity of the farm. The stage is full of animals at the start of the play and gradually the numbers reduce until at the end, only a handful are left as those who question the pigs are removed - even the young pigs who are tricked into a confession of guilt are not spared. The young actors take on their animal personas well - adopting the mannerisms of each animal. I think they have had a lot of fun preparing for this play and their preparation has paid off with dividends. There are some lovely performances - I especially liked the chickens and the sheep!
Orwell wrote Animal Farm in 1945 to expose the soviet myth - communism was meant to be about equality but what is revealed here is that no matter what the ideals of man - or beast - might be, human nature takes over and all leaders become self-serving in the end. No-one is truly equal. Someone is always more equal than the others. Standing up for what is right means different things to different animals and voicing a differing opinion is dangerous, but sometimes must be done. When the animals were working together they were happy and successful, but easily mislead. The message of the play is - we must all strive to recognise the truth and stand together to uphold it - otherwise we will end up like the poor animals of Animal Farm.
Animal Farm plays until Sat 16th Sept. It is a lovely production - go see it.