Sunday, March 27, 2011

Animal Farm

Singapore – Ivan Heng & W!ld Rice
Theatre Royal Sat 26 March 2.30pm
Ten Days on the Island
From the island of Singapore, whose history like Tasmania’s charts a familiar path of colonisation, comes a stage adaptation of George Orwell’s 1945 classic political tale, Animal Farm. This zappy, hoof-prodding production deftly exposes the unfortunate universal trait of pig-faced hypocrisy.

Animal Farm, a story about claiming to have moral beliefs but which one's own behavior does not conform, is one that Orwell struggled to publish, and celebrated Director Ivan Heng was questioned for choosing to stage over 50 years later. Yet many of us read Animal Farm at school, and Ten Days is giving us the opportunity to re-live “The cycle of Tyranny, Revolution, Freedom & Corruption and then Tyranny (which) is irresistible and repeats itself, across time, places and cultures” (Ivan Heng) in this Australian Premiere.

Heng uses writer Ian Wooldridge’s faithful adaptation, which at times is so literal that much of the dialogue is taken directly from Orwell’s text. Sometimes didactic, though always clear, it shows the animals’ rebellion, and in their very act of revolt, arguing “FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD” they use human benchmarks and historic idols like testing a horse’s knowledge of the alphabet, and a pig studying Julius Caesar.

There are times when the text lifts off the page and into animal-human touch that holds humour and poignancy. In these moments of theatrical suspense, something truthful reaches deeply into the heart of the audience: for example, when a pig’s hoof goes to shake a human hand.

Heng’s energetic direction is matched by the spirited, multi-lingual and powerful skill of seven performers, who dynamically sculpt the animal characters with detailed physicality, while interchanging between roles, non-stop for an hour and a half. Napoleon’s (Lim Yu-Beng) pig hoof hands and Boxer’s (Gani Abdul Karim) heavy plodding horse hoofs were enduringly evocative, while it was hard to take my eyes off the zestful Pig Squealer (Alecia Kim Chua). Musician Philip Tan’s spicy score was played from the stage, like another animal in the barn.

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