Richmond Theatre, Richmond – until 14th May 2022
Reviewed by Bobbi Fenton
Robert Icke’s adaptation of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ is absolutely phenomenal. The animals, controlled by amazing puppeteers such as Ashleigh Cheadle, Matthew Churcher, and Darcy Collins, are given their own unique ways of moving, even when standing still, and never feel like puppets. It feels like there are live animals on stage. These animals’ voices are pre-recorded by actors such as Garry Cooper, Robert Glenister, and Kevin Harvey, and we end up with a goat that has a Scouse accent, and a horse with a Birmingham accent.
The play is about a revolution, in which the animals on the farm chase away the cruel farmer Jones, and create what is intended to be a perfect society. The story starts off rather light-hearted and even quite funny at times, but slowly gets darker as the new society they create starts to fall apart. The pigs come up with eight original commandments, and slowly become more authoritative. Led by the pigs, and the ‘leader’, a pig named Napoleon, their new society begins to crumble, as inevitably the pigs begin to take on the role of the authoritative leaders, and one by one change the commandments to fit with what they want. The two pigs, Napoleon and Squealer, also use another pig as a scapegoat for everything that goes wrong, blaming Snowball for everything bad that happens. Towards the end of the play, Napoleon appears to lift off of his front legs and support himself only with his back two legs for a few moments, and by the end of the play we see Napoleon and Squealer walking around comfortably on two legs wearing clothes. This is a contrast to the original commandments, and even the slogan that started the whole revolution. All the animals had it drummed into them “four legs good, two legs bad”, however by the end this has changed to “four legs good, two legs better.”
This incredibly poignant show is a reflection on human society, and the faults within an authoritative state. It shows the inevitable failure and collapse of society when there is inequality, and is truly relatable to people from every generation. This story could compare to the Russian revolution in 1917, which inspired the original book, or even the current political climate with war in Europe and politicians not following the rules set out by them to do whatever they want.
It is honestly a must-see, because it is a truly remarkable representation of a corrupt government system, which uses propaganda and scapegoats to stay in charge and get their own way.