Animal Farm ★★★★ Richmond Theatre | May 10 - 14, 2022


George Orwell originally wrote Animal Farm as an attack on Stalin's betrayal of the ideals of the Russian Revolution, but its relevance to today's political situation in various countries is unmissable. The animals revolt against the cruelty of the farmer and seek to create a society of equals but their idealism is undermined by Napoleon, a pig who becomes a dictator and purges his opponents. This production brings the dark fable to the stage with a cast of puppets that become amazingly real while maintaining all of the movement we associate with farm animals. The puppeteers disappear and we become completely immersed in the story. Robert Icke's direction has choreographed this inventive production so that it is almost balletic in its rhythm and movement. The work flows beautifully from scene to scene, and Bunny Christie's brilliantly imaginative set is used to stunning effect. Jon Clark's lighting and Tom Gibbons' sound and music create an atmosphere that is marvellously dramatic and emotive. The battle scenes are completely enthralling. However, ultimately, it is the puppets that carry the evening. These impressive creations of puppetry designer and director, Toby Olié, and his team are quite captivating. The characters of autocratic Napoleon, sycophantic Squealer, wise old Boxer and dizzy Mollie all become totally real and recognisable as personalities we have met. Orwell's classic story has sometimes lost its impact in the doldrums of being an assigned school text, but this production reinvigorates it, bringing out all the cold menace and contemporary relevance of the original. In these times, there's a lot to learn from Animal Farm.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Manuel Harlan.

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