Review: Animal Farm at the Lichfield Garrick

An adventurous new departure into an expressionist style of production for Different Animal theatre here with an almost choreographic retelling of Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, the iconic political parable that is Animal Farm.

A plethora of marvellously inventive stage craft touches are called into play in pursuit of realising the vision of allegorical anthropomorphosis that is Orwell’s tale of exploited animals who take over the farm. As an analysis of the circular nature of modern political revolutions it’s pin sharp but unexpectedly here it’s also deeply moving as the ideals of the revolution are betrayed and manipulated, and leaders emerge for whom equality is merely a bad joke.

It’s a big cast and in addition most of the actors multi-task playing several parts but director Robin Lewitt marshals the whole company with magisterial ease.

The towering presence of Chris Stanley as the tyrant Napoleon very satisfyingly heads up the ensemble while Rory Payne brings his less ruthless rival Snowball vividly to life. David Stonehouse is a delightfully cynical Squealer whose propaganda credits rival those of Goebbels, while Ken Knowles makes a masterful Old Major, the boar whose ideas spark off the revolution.

Hannah Davies is lovely as Mollie the pony, lured from the farm by capitalist trappings, Mandy Davies brings a touching warmth to the role of Clover, Jessica James boldly multitasks as a goat, a hen and a cow while Adrian Venables makes a touching Boxer whose motto “I will work harder” typifies the exploited blind faith shown by the followers of this revolution’s cynical leaders.

Not to be outdone Rebecca Hyland, Ellie Galvin and Chris Buckle share the role of narrator as well as playing quite a range of other parts. Whew!

An evening full of clever incident. Catch it now before it becomes one of those legendary productions you’re sorry you missed.

Animal Farm runs in the Garrick Studio until Saturday (September 24). For tickets phone the box office on 01543 412121 or visit www.lichfieldgarrick.com.

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