Animals rule in Orwell classic

For a vivid theatrical lesson in 20th-century history, youths and their parents need to head over to Red Deer College. The Russian Revolution and Stalin’s corruption of lofty Communist ideals have never been as entertainingly — and chillingly — presented as in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

For a vivid theatrical lesson in 20th-century history, youths and their parents need to head over to Red Deer College.

The Russian Revolution and Stalin’s corruption of lofty Communist ideals have never been as entertainingly — and chillingly — presented as in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

And Theatre Studies students are presenting a stand-up stage version of Orwell’s novel at the RDC Arts Centre’s Studio A. The show that opened Wednesday night and runs through Saturday was adapted by Peter Hall.

It’s no surprise that director Lynda Adams discovered Hall’s script in the education section in the RDC library. For anyone who hasn’t read Animal Farm, (or who only grudgingly read it in English class), will come to appreciate, through this musical play, Orwell’s smart allegory about one of Europe’s most infamous political movements.

In this production with 29 songs, an aged boar named Old Major (standing in for Marx/Lenin) provides inspirational words that fuel an animal rebellion against drunken, irresponsible farmer Jones.

After the farmer forgets to feed his livestock, the pigs lead the charge, promising other animals a voice in how things are run on the farm, and equal proceeds from collective labours.

A rivalry soon develops between idealistic porker Snowball (Leon Trotsky), and a power-hungry pig named Napoleon, who represents self-serving despot Joseph Stalin.

The second half of the play takes place after Snowball is run off the farm, and is much more gripping than the first half. Napoleon’s rise to dominance corresponds with the other animals’ near-starvation rations and loss of rights and freedoms.

There’s an ominous scene in which some of the livestock, coerced into making confessions, are quite literally thrown to the dogs. While their fate happens off stage, it’s suggested with sound effects that might be too intense for very young children. (But then, this play’s political implications are more suited to ages 12 and up).

The action, which takes place in a versatile farmyard, designed by Anton de Groot, moves along quite well under Adams’ direction.

Although the songs in this play aren’t particularly catchy, they are short. And while the students’ voices are variable, there’s a live soundtrack performed by music director/pianist Morgan McKee, drummer Rob Goodwin, bassist Curtis Phagoo and guitarist Ryan Marchant.

A few characterizations need amping up (most notably Snowball’s lacking charisma), but others are memorable — including Napoleon’s second-in-command pig Squealer, poetic Bolshevik pig Minimus, wisely skeptical donkey Benjamin, loyal labouring horse Boxer, vain mare Mollie, and apathetic cat.

The young actors, who wear headgear designed by Donna Jopp suggestive of their animals’ appearance, generally do a good job of conveying animistic behavior through voice and body language — especially the chickens, goat and dog.

Congratulations to the first-year cast of Michael Bentley, Maggie Chisholm, Tanner Chubb, Veronika Fodor, Sara Fowlow, Ryan Garbutt, Theo Grandjambe, Kira Kirkland, Paul Kusmire, Vanessa McCagg, Ronnie McLean, Jelena Minshall, Stuart Old, Taylor Osiowy, Amy Peters, Chonteal Ramsey, Mike Richards, Tiana Williston, and Thomas Zima.

The years have not softened the powerful impact of Orwell’s story. In fact, Hall adds his own political messages about factory farming that might make some audience members re-think the whole meat-at-every-meal thing.

The subversive Orwell would likely have approved.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 takes 5 more lives in Alberta

Alberta announced five more deaths related to COVID-19 on Monday, almost doubling… Continue reading

Red Deer grateful to Saskatoon police for helping during 9-1-1 outage

Telus Mobility customers had to dial 9-1-1 from a landline before outage was resolved

Federal wage subsidy plan will help businesses say central Alberta business representatives

Prime minister says businesses losing 30 per cent in revenue eligible for 75 per cent wage subsidy

A message from the Advocate publisher

In good times and bad, The Red Deer Advocate has been here… Continue reading

Charitable Red Deer-area fundraisers are postponed or ‘re-imagined’ due to COVID-19

Virtual daffodil sales and some online benefits are planned

Alberta Health Services provides COVID-19 prevention tips

Alberta Health Services has a number of recommendations for people amid the… Continue reading

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

Newspapers are safe to touch, World Health Organization confirms

Just make sure to wash your hands, as you would after touching any surface or object

David Marsden: Signs of kindness lift our spirits during COVID-19 pandemic

From teddy bears, to colourful cutouts of hearts, to expressions of support… Continue reading

Parents should respect custody arrangements during COVID-19 pandemic: Ont. courts

Parents should respect custody arrangements during COVID-19 pandemic: Ont. courts

Canadian military ready to mobilize 24,000 troops for COVID-19: Minister

Canadian military ready to mobilize 24,000 troops for COVID-19: Minister

Vancouver Convention Centre picked for off site COVID-19 treatment centre

Vancouver Convention Centre picked for off site COVID-19 treatment centre

Trump defends extending virus guidelines as spread continues

Trump defends extending virus guidelines as spread continues

Most Read