When: Wednesday, 25 April - Saturday, 12 May
Where: Australian Theatre for Young People, 4/5 hickson road, walsh bay
How much: $25/20
Director Netta Yashchin's stage adaptation of George Orwell’s 1945 novella Animal Farm at the Australian Theatre for Young People is dedicated to the Jewish-Arabic director and peace activist Juliano Mer-Khamis. He was murdered just over a year ago in Jenin in the West Bank, close to the Freedom Theatre he ran for young people. Hearing about his production of Animal Farm inspired Yashchin to create her own production of the story, which she says is "extremely relevant today".
Staging Animal Farm in Palestine has an immediate weight and relevance. Sydney's Walsh Bay doesn't have quite the same effect. Nevertheless Animal Farm is a cracker of a story and it is hard not to find it interesting wherever you are. Orwell's illustration of post-revolution reversion to the same oppression as that of the overthrown powers is a great piece to stage at the moment. Australian Labor party leadership squabbles don't qualify as a revolution, but the hypocrisy and deceit displayed by our politicians is right there in Animal Farm. More pertinent perhaps is Egypt's post-revolutionary presidential race, which has turned into a farce because of the string of disqualifications based on pedantic nationality rules.
The production is highly physical while at the same time retaining much of Orwell's excellent writing as narration delivered directly to the audience. Dymphna Carew's choreography and Tom Ringberg's fight direction give the piece a physically vibrant edge that keeps the story alive. The pigs' transformation into authoritarian masters trying to walk on two legs is a particularly striking moment.
The performances are generally compelling, with a strong sense of ensemble for this large cast of 18. Michael Brindley presents a delightfully eccentric characterisation of the messianic raven, Moses, with his utopian belief in Sugarcandy Mountain. Stephanie King playing the Cat has some consummate acrobatic skills on the silks, which at times distracts from the action (because she's so good). The performers seem to be enjoying themselves, which is always a pleasure to watch.
If your copy of Animal Farm has been gathering dust since high school, this is an excellent opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the classic.