High Country Theatre are presenting a stage adaptation of George Orwell’s classic satire “Animal Farm” in the Jackson Centre at Saumarez Homestead from 31st August to 8th September. We spoke to director Benjamin Thorn.
Why Animal Farm?
Orwell wrote Animal Farm in 1942 as a satire on the Soviet Union, with a group of pigs orchestrating a rebellion and taking over the farm in the cause of equality, which very quickly goes sour. But it is much more than that. Written in 1942, the final chapters are in fact projections into the then future, and it is alarming how accurate Orwell was. Even more important and relevant to our own times is the brilliant portrayal of how truth can become infinitely malleable in the hands of politicians. We see that today in Putin’s Russia, Trump’s America and even, alas, in Australia.
So it is a story for our time?
Very much so. The historical basis is interesting, but not really important in terms of understanding what is going on. More important is the portrayal of bullying, manipulation and exploitation. This comes to a head in the saddest moment in the play, when the draught horse Boxer, who has dedicated his life to Animal Farm and been almost unquestioning about how it has been run, collapses and is immediately sold off to the knackery. But even then the pigs deny that this has happened and insist that he died in hospital with every care, and sound revolutionary slogans on his last breath. Quite where the money for a case of whisky at the party (for pigs only) to commemorate his life came from is, of course, a total mystery.
How are you portraying the animals?
This was an interesting problem, since the animals have to be presented as animals or the recurring slogan of the sheep “Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad!” doesn’t make sense. Most of the animals are therefore puppets manipulated by actor/puppeteers in black. Donna Wainohu and I have created some wonderful cut-outs with moving parts. The most important roles are played by actors in open masks that allow greater expression. And there are human roles as well.
Who is in the cast?
We have a large cast of about fifteen actors, some of whom are playing multiple roles. In the main roles we have Nick Troon playing Benjamin the donkey, who acts as the narrator of the story, Gordon Cope as Old Major, Claire Wall as Napoleon, Ethan Hinds as Snowball and Julie Collins as Squealer.
Where and when is it being performed?
Since it is Animal Farm we thought it would be really good to perform it on a farm, and therefore it is being staged in the Jackson Centre at Saumarez Homestead. The Jackson Centre is a large barn with a couple of rooms in the middle that will become part of the set. It is fairly enclosed, so we will be able to heat it, but do wear warm clothes. Performances will be on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30pm from 31st August to 8th September, with matinees at 2:30pm on the Saturdays.
Where can we get tickets?
Tickets will be available online from Trybooking: www.trybooking.com/403636 or at the door. Seating is limited, so booking would be a good idea.
So why should everyone come and see it?
Animal Farm is a classic piece of 20th Century English literature, which is often part of the school syllabus, and which has continuing relevance for our time. It is being presented in an innovative and engaging theatrical way and should appeal to a wide audience. I look forward to seeing you there!