‘Animal Farm’ the book, was originally called ‘Animal Farm, a Fairy Tale’. It is a political allegory (parable /fable).
‘Animal Farm’ is a deep multi-layered story which, like a pantomime, can be construed on several levels. A 12 yrs. old would enjoy this presentation, but the older members of the audience who know Russian history will observe the many parallels. The true interpretation has a real sting, but this ‘moved reading’ needs no prior knowledge to really enjoy the performance.
This satirical stage play was adapted by the American science fiction author, Nelson S. Bond from one of the Time Magazine’s list of the World’s most respected books. The story was written in the three winter months between 1943 / 44 by the democratic socialist – George Orwell – who described in animal form the events leading up to the 1917 Russian Revolution, and the start of a reign of terror by the brutal dictator, Stalin, that led to the formation of the Soviet Union. Taking part in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell learnt how effective propaganda could be and this was a main driving force in writing this story.
During the Second World War the Brits thought Stalin was a wonderful chap, as with his red Army had helped defeat Hitler; and so, the publishers held back publication until the end of the War. The book has never had a Preface. Incidentally, the first choice of publisher, Jonathan Cape, was warned off by a civil servant called Smollett in the Ministry of Information as too anti-Russian – he was later found to be a Soviet spy! Faber and Faber’s director, TS Eliot, also turned the book down and called Orwell a Trotskyite.
George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair) was born in Bengal in 1903, to a father who was a pillar of British rule. By his teens he became a morose rebel and changed his name to Orwell – the name of a river near his home in East Anglia. Like Kipling, Orwell was sent to an English prep school aged only 11. Then six years At Eton where Aldous Huxley was one of his teachers. Orwell then returned to India, where at the age of 19 he became a senior police officer. Five years later, embarrassed by the social inequality of India, Orwell returned to the UK and lived in the slums of London’s East End.
On seeing a young boy thoughtlessly whipping a carthorse it struck Orwell that if animals could be aware of their strength, humans would have no power over them; likewise, the rich exploiting the impoverished in Indians.
Today Obama could thought of as Snowball and Trump as Napoleon.
As courageous as ever, ‘Life on Hold Productions’ go for the plays that others avoid. They are presenting this radical comedy at the Victoria Park Hotel, 605 Albany Highway, Victoria Park. This production can be seen on Wednesday 27th, March and Friday 29th then Saturday 30th and Saturday 6th and Friday 12th April at 7.30 pm
The Sunday matinees are at 2.00 pm on 31st March and 7th April.
The performances on 3rd and 10th April are at the earlier time of 7.00 pm, as they will be followed by a ‘Q and A’ hosted by the Communist Party of Australia.
The scene: 1912 at Manor Farm in the English countryside.
The set: Five years ago, BBC Radio 4 presented a dramatisation read by Tamsin Greig (of ‘Black Books’ fame). With music stands, and highbacked bar stools this could have been the same radio studio.
John Spurling’s simple but effective mood lighting matched the AV presentation.
The sound design and recording quality was exemplary. The gun shots, normally muffled and distorted, were crisp and threatening. The animal sounds matched the situation extremely well. Good work by Daniel Toomath and Sarah Christiner.
Two large screens behind the seated cast showed the dozens of pictures and video. The photos were superb, both in clarity and choice of situation. The venues depicted were perfect for the story. Some shots had a great deal of seamless photoshopping, the animals’ dream sequence brought a smile. Pure magic from Rosalyn Anderson and Sarah Christiner.
The lights and AV were precisely operated by Callum Hunter and Kolbe Burgoyne. Many of the effects had to blend in with the script. Flawless.
The narrator (Petrina Harley) steps forward and explains that instead of being beaten, starved and overworked, if only the farm animals stood together against their masters, they could effectively rule the world.
One day, the ancient boar on the Manor Farm, Old Major (a blend of Marx and Lenin, played by Philip Lord), summons the animals for a meeting. Major then teaches the animals a revolutionary song called ‘Beasts of England’ (c.f. the work of Vladimir Mayakovski). He explains that being in his dotage that he is about to die, and would like to pass on his Animals’ Commandments: –
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal. Later modified to ‘…. but some animals are more equal than others.’
On Major’s demise, his skull (like Lenin’s body) is put on public display. Two young pigs, the intelligent Snowball (depicting Trotsky, AJ Lowe) and a bullying Berkshire boar, Napoleon (Lenin, Philip Lord), assume command and plan for a Rebellion. The animals’ revolt, and drive the drunken farmer, Mr. Jones (Russian Tsar Nicholas II? AJ Lowe) and the other humans off the farm, then rename it ‘Animal Farm’.
Snowball declares that now ‘All animals are equal’. He then teaches the animals to read and write.
Very quickly the pigs become the leaders and help themselves to bigger food portions, so much for ‘all are equal’. Jones and his farmhands attempt to recapture the farm, but Snowball and the animals ambush him in the ‘The Battle of the Cowshed’. The animals defeat the men by launching a surprise attack as soon as they enter the farmyard. Snowball’s popularity soars. Napoleon is furious and jealous.
Snowball announces he is going to modernise the farm, but Napoleon has his dogs chase Snowball off the farm; then he declares ‘his’ ideas to modernise. Napoleon has a young porker named Squealer (Molotov, Josh McGee) who becomes ‘the’ voice and Minister for Propaganda. Napoleon rewrites recent history, and any animal that disagreed or showed admiration of Snowball was killed by Napoleon’s dogs (c.f. Great Purge of Grigori Zinoviev). Already, some animals are now convinced that they were better off under Mr. Jones.
The animals build a windmill, but neighbouring farmer, Mr Fredrick (Josh McGee) destroys it. The loyal carthorse, Boxer (Paul Cook) becomes injured, and collapses. Napoleon pretends to send for a caring vet, but a donkey who has learnt to read knows this is the knacker’s van, and that Napoleon is fooling them. Squealer lies to them. Behind his fellow animals’ backs, Napoleon then befriends Mr Fredrick (Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact). On Boxer’s death, the two other horse, the white mare Mollie (Meredith Hunter) is adorned with ribbons, whilst clever Clover (Rosalyn Anderson) grieves.
Can the animals be winning? Will Napoleon become the ideal leader?
The green ‘Horn and Hoof’ Flag shown in the AV is based on the Communist hammer and sickle symbol.
The ‘costumes’ were simple black outfits, of black trousers and of course black shirts (a reference to Oswald Mosley?). The singing of the animals’ song was surprisingly good.
The Director Sarah Christiner (her best play yet) was assisted in the directing by AJ Lowe, well thought out and a magnificent cast.
This is a two-hour show, but the audience’s attention was held throughout, time flew. Highly recommended, some nights are almost sold out so check with TAZ entertainment.