George Orwell’s classic satirical novella, Animal Farm, is brought vividly to life in this staging of the musical adaptation by the late Sir Peter Hall, formerly Director of Britain’s National Theatre. The production, directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliot, tells Orwell’s cautionary tale in dramatic fashion, bringing to life Orwell’s characters and infusing them with a reality beyond their animal personas.
While infused with musical numbers, Sir Peter’s adaptation, which is rarely performed, is notable mostly for the theatrical interpretation of the story. Rodriguez-Elliot does a fine job of adhering to the tone and impact of Orwell’s story, along with enlivening the production with dramatic flairs and interpretations that bridge the gap between the animals’ personalities and their human projections.
Orwell’s story has many echoes of contemporary society, as we see populist uprisings around the world that seem headed in authoritarian directions. While the parallels are not exact, one can imagine the nationalist movements sweeping the United States and Europe as harkening back to the authoritarian movements of the 1920’s and ‘30s.
There are important differences, however. Orwell was a dedicated socialist who was decrying the hijacking of socialism by the Soviet regime. Many of his animals are exact replica of Soviet figures like Stalin and Trotsky and the plight of the animals under the rule of Napoleon and his fascist pigs narrowly mirrors the Stalinist terror. Rather than concluding that populist uprising inevitably lead to totalitarianism, Orwell more narrowly concludes that the revolution has been betrayed by traitors and the world’s capitalists.
The production is not entirely serious — the actors playfully adapt to their animal characters and the pompous strutting of Napoleon (skillfully portrayed by Rafael Goldstein) make for lighter moments amidst the polemics. Overall, Rodriguez-Eliott also employs a light touch in her direction, using Brechtian techniques as a garnish, rather than as a heavy helping.
This A Noise Within production is a welcome addition to their distinguished production history.
Animal Farm — A Noise Within. 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91107. 626-356-3100. August 28 – October 2, 2022. Tickets & info at A Noise Within.
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