Animal Farm

There is a reason why George Orwell is popular in theatre and it is because his writing seems more relevant now than ever.  This production from University of Manchester Drama Society uses Nelson Bond’s 1961 adaptation and sets the play in 1980s Thatcherite Britain.  It’s an ambitious undertaking, performed in the studio at Ziferblat Cafe in the Northern Quarter, which I think is a tricky space to use for theatre without a raised stage.

Starting with the miners’ strike, the production tries to place the action in the 80s, and pretty well succeeds.  It’s a hard thing to do without changing the text, but the supporting video, protest placards and costumes do just enough to keep the time period.  Certainly more successful than most attempts I have seen this year.  The 1980s test card at the interval is a nice touch.

But it is the way that the central story of Animal Farm develops that impresses most.  There’s little room for a set and the work is done by the actors and tech.  Production (Lily Ashton) and Direction (Monique Touko) are generally excellent, although positioning the narrator in Napoleon’s ‘power’ position at the rear of the stage frustrated me.  Nevertheless, I really like the stage movement and there is clear character development throughout.  Acting from the seven strong cast (Alex Hurst, Megan Shone, Mia Nuttgens, Andrew Dixon, Tom Roberts, George Miaris, Eli Carjaval) is consistent and strong.

This is a very good studio production of a difficult but rewarding script.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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