Monday, July 15

Animal Farm – Hull Truck Theatre

When Snowball the angry, militant “pig” crept menacingly towards me, across the stage of Hull Truck Theatre on Thursday night, I began to think my front-row seat wasn’t such a good thing after all.

I was at this popular local theatre to watch a powerful re-telling of George Orwell’s classic, Animal Farm – a book I had never read, but, it being a classic, knew the storyline of.

Thankfully, Snowball (Samater Ahmed) spared me, directing his anger at the farm’s owner and his master, Mr Jones.

The way Jones ran Manor Farm was not to the animals’ liking nor for their benefit, so they overthrow him, take over and create a new set of rules in which “all animals are equal”.

However, it soon becomes apparent that the cleverest farm animals are the pigs – Squealer (Killian Macardle), Napoleon (Ida Regan) and Old Major (Polly Lister).

The horses – Mollie (Olivia Chandler), Boxer (Sam Black) and Clover (a dual role for Polly Lister) – are sweet animals, but maybe too trusting. Boxer, especially, believes every word Napoleon utters.

It is Old Major who kicks off the revolution, before she dies “peacefully in her sleep”. But I don’t think she realises she has opened Pandora’s box for pigs.

Gradually, the pigs start to live the life of Mr and Mrs Jones, living comfortably in the farmhouse, sleeping on beds, eating apples and drinking milk – all activities denied the rest of the animals on the now renamed Animal Farm.

The pigs keep the other animals working hard, even rationing their food, and it’s only Clover the horse who sometimes questions the inequality she witnesses.

Napoleon the pig is the voice of what’s becoming a tyranny – her word is law.

George Orwell’s tale highlights how power corrupts, and it is as relevant today as when his book was published in 1945.

When Napoleon, appearing with Squealer, both on stilts to make the overworked and worn out animals feel smaller, she declares Animal Farm is now called Manor Farm – she and farmer Jones have morphed into one.

Her motto of “all animals are equal” has had the words “but some are more equal than others” added, and it’s then the downtrodden beasts realise they have replaced one tyranny for another. But it’s too late for some.

Taking our seats on the night it was obvious by the dark stage setting we weren’t going to see a colourful production, in any sense of the word. A backdrop of large, ridged panels opened and closed all night long allowing the “animals” to enter and exit.

The wooden stage floor came to pieces at various times in the hands of the animals while loud music permeated proceedings, adding to the drama.

All performers’ voices were loud and clear on the night, and not once did any forget they were animals with their hoof pawing, grunts, neighs and oinks – no mean feat when having to remember reams of dialogue at the same time.

And the animals they represented were portrayed by artistic pig and horse heads in the main.

A special mention must go to understudy Olivia Chandler who played her various roles without any sign of a “script in hand” as was reported in our press notes.

I felt the audience to be a bit muted on the night, although, admittedly, there weren’t many breaks in which we could show any appreciation, laugh, cheer or even boo.

All in all, an interesting theatrical experience.

A Co-Production with Octagon Theatre Bolton & Derby Theatre

Running until Saturday, April 13th, 2024. Various times. Tickets cost from £10. Call (01482) 323638 or visit www.hulltruck.co.uk

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 28th March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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