It feels nearly painful to watch Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s thoughtful adaptation of Animal Farm and realise that the cautionary tale from 1945 is still so shockingly relevant. George Orwell, its author, who also wrote 1984, was prescient decades ago, and instead of fading, the metaphors employed in a barnyard revolt continue to echo.
Lusty-Cavallari’s adaptation and direction are precise, gathering an ensemble cast that fluidly introduces the characters, all barnyard animals, who slowly fall under the influence of pigs Snowball (Lachlan Stevenson) and his shadow Napoleon (Angus Evans). Here are horses, donkeys, cows and other beasts of burden that populate Jones’ farm, long neglected because he is on a bender. Idealism is smitten, Snowball is exiled and maligned, and the cycle of slow tyranny escalates until the very notion of change becomes bleary and remote. Rules are written on the side of the barn, but pointedly not in stone.
The talented ensemble includes Zoe Crawford as Squealer, one of Napoleon’s supporters, who blithely tells the animals that “the facts don’t care about your feelings” and other absurdities absorbed as truth.
“This is the story of a revolution that goes wrong and it is that relationship between revolution and tyranny that is so important,” writes Lusty-Cavallari in the director’s notes. As the revolution gathers momentum, so does the tyranny, and life is perpetually improving but never really changing. But it’s better than it used to be, right? Right?
Until Nov 7. New Theatre, 542 King St, Newtown. $20-$35+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.newtheatre.org.au
Reviewed by Olga Azar