George Orwell’s animal farm has “something to teach every generation,” Clive Davis said in The times. But now seems a particularly opportune time to revisit his allegorical fable about the slide into authoritarianism and a “megalomaniac dictator whose words mock the truth.”
In this “brisk and sharp” production warhorse-style animal puppetry is used to “grand” effect, and there is evocative music by artists such as Mahler and Puccini to punctuate the “graphic novel-like narrative.” The show is a co-production between Children’s Theater Partnership and Birmingham Rep. However, it’s not ideal for younger audiences: this depiction of a revolution betrayed “doesn’t spare us the gory details”.
It was a “compelling” production, “superbly done,” said Quentin Letts The Sunday Times. Both adults and older children should find it captivating. Director Robert Icke has a lot of fun with the story because the early scenes – when the animals topple Farmer Jones – exude a “joy reminiscent of Nick Park Wallace & Gromit“.
Toby Olié’s puppets are outstanding, from the ruling-class pigs with accordion-shaped torsos and imperious gaits to the chickens that peck and flap. Boxer, the trusty Clydesdale horse, is a particular beauty: he retains the “monumental shoulders and dignified gait of a randy workman even as the revolution he supports turns cannibalistic and the swineherds become the autocrats they replaced.” .
This “staggeringly beautiful” production is phenomenal in many ways, agreed Arifa Akbar The guard. The 14 puppeteers work with “incredible agility”, the fight and pursuit scenes are “breathtaking”. But it doesn’t always convey a “tangible sense of fear or threat” on the farm — and there’s an “emotional shallowness” to some of the stories.
For example, Napoleon (the Stalin character) never really gets scary, and his betrayal of Boxer is “not as tragic as it should be”. However, what the play lacks in “emotional impact” it makes up for in exhilarating spectacle, imagination, energy and the absolute glory of its puppetry.
https://www.theweek.co.uk/arts-life/culture/theatre/955966/animal-farm-on-stage-review Animal Farm Review | The week Great Britain