Arts & Culture

15th February 2020

Animal Farm: A Review

Based on George Orwell’s 1945 bestselling novella, YEP brings Manor Farm to life in a vivid production showcasing the talent of young performers and creatives across Merseyside. 

Adapted for the stage by Laurence Wilson and directed by Chris Tomlinson and Matt Rutter, Young Everyman and Playhouse present a lively reimagining of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Image Credit: YEP Animal Farm 2020 – Brian Roberts

The Story

Combining animal fable with biting political satire, YEP’s timely adaptation holds a mirror up to our own climate of political unrest amid the indomitable miasma of fake news.

Animal Farm tells the story of a group of farm animals who revolt against the tyrannical charge of their farmer, Mr Jones. The brainpower behind this operation is the pigs, who over the course of a few years, slowly begin to exert greater degrees of authority over the rest of the animals, despite an initial system of equality and comradeship. 

Image Credit: YEP Animal Farm 2020 – Brian Roberts

By the end of the story, the pigs have slowly morphed into their human counterparts, selling off the hen’s eggs, working the horses into the ground and living in the old farmhouse, just like humans. As the narrative reaches its climax, a heated fight breaks out between the pigs and the surrounding farmers. As the rest of Animal Farm watch on, it is impossible to tell the difference between who is a pig and who is human. It seems they are both. 

‘All animals are equal. But some are more equal than others.’

George Orwell, Animal Farm

Characters and Costumes

The cast themselves provided a brilliantly realistic characterization of each animal, from the frenzied feather-ruffling head-tilting chickens, to a host of knuckle-bearing tottering pigs. With screeching crows and slinking cats, the Everyman came alive with all the characters of a working farm. Clover the horse moved with an impressively realistic giddiness compared to her counterpart Boxer who vividly demonstrated the consistent stoicism of a carthorse. 

Designed by Abi Jones and Chloe Wyn, the minimalist costumes added an extra dimension of quasi-realism, using a skeletal framework of headpieces and masks to construct the visual profiles of each animal. These costumes provided a plethora of textures, varying from pastel-toned pigs, to the fuzzy coats of billy goats. Often just picking out each creature’s most prominent features, such as the ears and noses, their simplicity worked to powerful effect. 

Space and Staging

The cast made full use of the stage space, maximising the immersive quality of their adaptation, surrounding the audience with a genuinely animalistic host of characters. Animal Farm is a story for now, raising questions for the place of the individual within a collective society. Where do we stand? What are our roles? And crucially; what characteristics have we come to expect of a good leader?

‘In these times of political unrest, when social media provides a platform for everyone to be able to say something about the world they’re living in, this is a warning to us all – showing how relentless shouting can oppress those who choose to remained silent.’

– Rachael McGowan, 2nd Year YEP Marketer
Image Credit: YEP Animal Farm 2020 – Brian Roberts

Ultimately, Orwell’s narrative provides us with a timeless snapshot of dictatorship, its pitfalls, sufferings and obsession with power. YEP’s adaptation serves as a poignant reminder of our own political injustices and the consequences faced by the abuse of authority. 

To browse upcoming shows at The Everyman and The Playhouse, visit their website: https://www.everymanplayhouse.com

To find out how you can get involved with the Young Everyman and Playhouse (YEP) scheme, take a look at their website: https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/young-every-play

Featured Image Credit: YEP Animal Farm 2020 – Brian Roberts