Firstly, it was sheer pleasure to watch live theatre again. Kudos to New Theatre for bringing a production back to Sydney, it couldn’t have been easy to put out a play with the current COVID restrictions in place.
New Theatre’s adaptation of George Orwell’s 1945 allegorical novel Animal Farm plants it firmly in a barnyard of an Australian farm. Orwell’s story, far from a ‘fairy tale’, draws parallels from the Russian Bolshevik Revolution and Stalinist era of Soviet Union where the revolutionaries ultimately become the oppressors.
Director & writer Lusty-Cavallari’s version perhaps draws inspiration from the current Australian political climate where corrupt power players plan and execute dirty back room political alliances.
Orwell’s brilliant story takes place in Manor Farm where the animals are at the verge of a revolution as they are tired of their exploitation by their farmer master. The pigs take the lead and draw up ‘Seven commandments of Animalism’ and the horses, cows, dogs and the rest of the feathered animals follow. Everything seems new and promising until the pigs, lead by the manipulative top pig Napoleon, take over the farm and immediately start misusing their powers, ultimately becoming the masters. A series of misappropriations and brutality ensues resulting in total chaos and tyranny. In the end, the seven commandments are altered to just one phrase “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Lusty-Cavallari’s directs the cast cleverly using the sparse production design, the pace of the play is somewhat slow-moving considering the chaotic nature of the writing. The opening song number is effective and forceful and sets the mood for the rest of the play. The barnyard is depicted as a backdrop with a sliding door dividing the masters and the oppressed. The use of the front curtain with the animated projection dividing the chapters of the story was effectively done. The production and costume design is sparse and clinical and the lighting and sound design effective, especially in the Second Act. The cast have done an effective job considering it comprises of mostly first-time actors, the stand out performances come from Angus Evans (Napoleon), Zoe Crawford (Squealer) and Lachlan Stevenson (Snowball).
Lusty-Cavallari’s adaptation is clever and poignant and it was certainly refreshing to see Animal Farm depicted as an Australian story.
ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell | Directed & Adaptation: Saro Lusty-Cavallari | Lighting Designer: Rhys Mendham | Photo © Bob Seary
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