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Sunday, 29 May 2022

REVIEW: Animal Farm at The Churchill Theatre, Bromley

George Orwell’s novels seem to have this incredible ability to always stay relevant. Animal farm, for instance, Orwell’s satirical novel about power, class and greed continues to stay current despite being published back in 1945. Telling the story of a group of animals who decide to stage a revolution and claim the farm for themselves from the farmer, with the dream of freedom and equality for all animals. 

The subject material could be seen as heavy, almost too much for a younger audience. Particularly the theme of nazism, the vilification of an enemy and the propaganda that follows. 

What’s interesting here is the show, partnered with ‘Children’s Theatre Partnership’, would almost have you expect it to be a childish take on the themes. Yet the show does expertly well in catering to an audience of all ages with the ability to be educational to the youth and still portray the themes and messages that covey within the book.

Monday, 7 March 2022

REVIEW: Animal Farm at the Theatre Royal Bath

Robert Icke’s bold reimagining of George Orwell’s 1945 novel Animal Farm could not be more timely or relevant as the famous allegory for the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the corruption of ideals by power feels all too real with the brutal events in Ukraine and the irrational statements of the Russian President. The steady horrific fall from Major’s strong idealistic vision embodied in eight commandments including “all animals are equal” and “Four legs good, 2 legs bad” (excepting all birds of course) to Napoleon’s rewriting of history and just one commandment, “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” is stunningly and clearly portrayed by the cast of fourteen with thirty puppets.

The animals’ characters and physical presence are brilliantly captured by Toby Olie’s extraordinary designs and Daisy Beattie’s supervision of their creation (she gets a stage embodiment as the young calf at the end). The relative scale of each creature and the way they move and react is carefully recreated on stage so that you focus on them and not the puppeteers dressed mainly in black alongside them. The pre-recorded voices of each animal including such famous names as Juliet Stevenson and Robert Glenister are cleverly played in as part of Tom Gibbon’s complex sound design which uses speakers along the forestage to give direction to the voices. They are supplemented by the animal sounds created live by the puppeteers. The combination of the physical presence, strong voice characterisations, and animal sounds gives each creature a distinctive voice that we can emotionally engage with. Indeed, the young people in the row behind me audibly gasped as one after another was lost in battle or executed as the story progressed. 
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