Adapted by: Laurence Wilson
Directed by: Chris Tomlinson & Matt Rutter
Production Manager: Christos Cailleux
Stage Manager: James Kapur
Date: February 14 2020
Location: Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
My last experience with Animal Farm was in English Literature class when it was selected for us as assigned reading. Although that was a few decades ago, the themes of the powerful novel exist now more than ever in today’s climate of uncertainty, chaos and unstable society.
The Young Everyman Playhouse (YEP) production of this strong powerful tale was brought to life last night at the Liverpool Everyman. Adapted by Liverpool’s own Laurence Wilson and directed by Chris Tomlinson and Matt Rutter, this piece of theatre was a real cast effort with everyone working towards the same goal of delivering this compelling message and no one sitting top of the bill. Just like all animals are equal in the commandants of the former Manor Farm, all ensemble were equal.
The set, basic in principle, was made up of hay bales, strewn hay and the single wall of a large barn which set the scene swiftly and effectively. You knew where you were. As the play progressed so did the use of levels. Not only did the gauze above the main set become both a shadow cloth a projection screen, the entire auditorium seemed fair game. Nowhere within the entire space was out of bounds. The set/thrust stage became a junction through which the cast would travel to different levels within the audience and even up in the circle keeping in character on their travels.
Costuming was purposefully basic so as not to distract, yet enough to signify and identify. Notable pieces were the yellow boots for the hens feet and leather straps for the horses’ bridles.
Starting strong and setting the pace, Joe Owens as Old Major gave a philosophical and slightly persuasive speech which sparked rebellion amongst the animals of the farm which in turn, began the revolt that was to become the initial overturn of Manor Farm. Joe also took on the role of Moses and played it in such a joyous and exuberant way, giving it an evangelical feel and bringing notes of humour to a sober piece. The story progresses and we get to know each character of the farm with their own interpretations of how they would move and interact with others. Bringing farmyard noises and sounds to the ears of the audience we were drawn in watching the effortless actions of the stooped clucking hens, the slinky graceful movements of the cat and Molly the horse’s aloof gaze when listening to the deceiving speeches given by Squealer and Napoleon. These characteristions show us how acutely the actors explored their roles, which in turn added to their authenticity.
There were a few times where the animal noises were slightly distracting as they leant over into some of the actors’ dialogue, but this was few and far between and possibly more authentic than intended.
The cast gave a powerful and convincing performance and if this is what to expect from the next generation of actors we’ve less to worry about than Orwell’s bleak vision of the future.
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding