George Orwell’s Animal Farm is one of the most powerful books of the 20th Century. An allegory, it uses the plight of the animals on Manor Farm, to mirror what had happened in Russia after the revolution of 1917. The animals, fired up by Old Major, a pig, decide to take over their farm by getting rid of their human owner, and taking over themselves with a list of commandments which end with ‘All animals are equal.’ But little by little, the pigs start to take over, bending rules to suit themselves, and then, after a power struggle (Stalin and Trotsky inspired), the vicious Napoleon emerges as the leader every bit as bad as Farmer Jones, as we learn that ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.’
Now, in a new adaptation by Robert Icke, the story is bought dramatically, and powerfully to life at the Birmingham Rep as a brilliant mixture of live action and puppetry. The dystopian ideas of some being ‘more equal’ with rules that don’t apply to them could not feel more apt as we wait for Sue Grey’s report, and a full house shows how this story still resonates, more than 70 years after it was first written.
The puppetry from Toby Olie is incredible, with more than 30 full sized animal models that range from small birds to Boxer, the majestic, ultimately tragic old carthouse. The puppets are so realistic in their movements and look so you are totally immersed in the world of the animals, and their puppeteers install in them brilliant characterisations, from almost Churchillian in speech for Snowball, menacing from Napoleon, almost Jolly Hockey sticks from Squealer, and slightly stupid but also loveable for Mollie.
Lighting and music also add to the atmosphere, with the lights often dropping in order to reveal the fate of one of the animals, particularly chilling when referring to the executions. Music too is part of the mood, from the stirring singing of the animals revolutionary song, to the singing of the same song after the farm animals are depleted by death, executions and the attack on the farm by humans.
Animal Farm is one of those shows that lingers in your mind long after the curtain has gone down. This version is unmissable.
90 mins, no intervals.
Click here for ticket information