Animal Farm Review

Hull Truck Theatre – until 13th April 2024

Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams


Upon entering Hull Truck Theatre, the scene is instantly set for this production of Animal Farm with discordant music playing, strange animal headpieces dangling down and a dark and smoky stage, resulting in a very unsettling feeling. Hull Truck Theatre is an intimate space and proved to be the perfect venue for this Hull Truck Theatre, Octagon Theatre Bolton & Derby Theatre production of Animal Farm directed by Iqbal Khan. Animal Farm is based on the novel by George Orwell and has been adapted for the stage by Ian Wooldridge.

The animals of Manor Farm are overworked and badly treated by the drunken farmer Mr Jones and after a stirring speech by Old Major (Polly Lister) begin to think about overthrowing him. Led by the pigs Snowball (Samater Ahmed) and Napoleon (Ida Regan) they overthrow the farmer and are ready to live a life where they will all be free and have equality. However, Snowball and Napoleon and the other pigs gradually manipulate the other animals and take control of the farm and the animals find that this is not a better life after all. Ending with only one maxim “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

This is a production with a small cast, where their eyes will bore into you as they consider what they are suffering, you feel their pain and worries along with them as life does not turn out as expected. Polly Lister was impressive delivering Old Major’s stirring speech, the audience was held by her words. Ida Regan’s Napoleon is a little unexpected as she appears a little unsure at first but develops into her leadership role, with a voice that is uncannily like that of Margaret Thatcher. Samater Ahmed is wonderful as Snowball, the more idealistic of the pigs and then as the world-weary donkey, dropping effortlessly into the new character he is playing. Sam Black is simply magnificent as the cart horse Boxer, his whole body oozes the character, it was difficult to take your eyes off him and his voice is beautiful to listen to. Killian Macardle was mesmerising as Squealer delivering political spin in such a convincing way, clearly the power behind Napoleon. Special mention should go to understudy Olivia Chandler who played Mollie the horse beautifully and was also a superb crow.

All the actors moved convincingly as the animals they portrayed and this production is very physical, movement director Shelley Eva Haden is to be commended. The set and lighting design by Ciarán Bagnall produces an oppressive atmosphere which is supported by the music composed by Dylan Towley. The animal headpieces developed and constructed by Sarah Worrall added to the atmosphere, being skeletal in their construction.

Orwell’s novel (published in 1945) was a satirical allegorical work based around the events of the Russian revolution in 1917. Sadly, this production emphasises that we have not moved on from this era and in fact there are clear links to the current political situation in our country (and others) with political spin and misinformation galore.

This is a thought-provoking chilling production; it pulls no punches and is not always an easy watch but it is still so relevant to today’s world. The two hours flew by and left me considering the world we now live in and wondering how this play is still so relevant today.