George Orwell’s famous novel is brought to life by the Young Everyman Playhouse company. This allegorical piece about farm animals who decide to rebel against the farmer, looks at the rebellion and how the growth of a society run by the animals goes wrong. It is a piece that, as the company themselves say, is poignant in our current political climate.
The minute you walk into the auditorium the smell of hay greets you. The set itself is striking and the barn feels authentic with wooden panels, crates, hay bales and hay spread about. There is a railing above the main stages with a gauze which allowed action to take place off stage through silhouette. The use of silhouette was at its most effective when those behind it stood still, delivering bleak new orders to the comrades of Animal Farm.
The costumes were simple but effective with masks adding to key features of the characters. The horses, Boxer and Clover wore leather overalls and boots, whereas other animals had costumes that were feathered or fluffy. The overall aesthetic was effective and suited the set and story very well and was a strength of the piece.
The physicality of the cast was one of the greatest elements of this piece. Each group of animals had a clear character with different animals having varying quirks and mannerisms. We saw a cow, eternally vacant and constantly chewing, chickens twitching and clucking with spot on comedic timing and the horses nuzzling each other and stamping to assert themselves as a dominant presence in the menagerie. Even facial expressions seemed tailored to each beast highlighted particularly as Snowball (the idealist pig) delivered an uplifting speech whilst the cat and dog sat side-by-side showing differing expressions. The enthusiasm and positivity of the dog being the perfect foil to the detached nature of the feline. Moses the raven was a treat and his commitment to his character was impressive. Although his delivery and mastery of movement were impressive, his choice of accent (although contextually completely understandable) was slightly jarring.
The cast worked brilliantly together, clearly trusting each other to ensure that characters were realistically portrayed. The support the cast gave each other allowed them to take risks and to play off of each other. Although a serious play with key issues which are current for today’s society, the cast allowed humorous moments to be created without taking away from the important message the play exerts.
The audience clearly appreciated the hard work this cast put in as there was a standing ovation and I am sure this young cast will go on to achieve great things in the theatre world.
Reviewer: Beth Easton
Reviewed: 13th February 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★