Animal Farm

George Orwell, adapted by Guy Masterson

Theatre Tours International and Guy Masterson

Assembly George Square Theatre

From 01 August 2014 to 24 August 2014

Rating: ***

Review by David Chadderton

Guy Masterson's programme at this year's Fringe is a mixture of revivals of old favourites and new productions, but this, in a way, is both.

Masterson has performed his adaptation of Orwell's allegory of Stalinist Russia more than 1,000 times, but this production takes the same script and hands it to a cast of 26 in a very physical production, directed by the author.

More than that, the link with issues still very much alive in some areas of Eastern Europe is made explicitly by using a cast of Georgian actors, all speaking in their mother tongue, with English surtitles.

It's a powerful idea, but one which couldn't hope to have the same emotional impact in the safety of the Edinburgh Fringe as it would in any of the former Soviet states, even if we can make the intellectual link. The text is quite wordy in places and the surtitles are positioned so that it isn't possible to both read them and watch the actors at the same time; they are also not always synchronised properly with the spoken dialogue and contain quite a few spelling mistakes.

The cast, all dressed in workman's overalls and depicting their animals purely through movement, show total commitment to the style of the piece. There are some very impressive individual performances, notably from George Kipshidze as a very intimidating Napoleon, Vano Tarkhnishvili as a brilliantly slimy propaganda officer Squealer and Zurab Getsadze as strong, loyal carthorse Boxer.

As visually impressive as the production is, there are issues with intelligibility of the storyline and characters for a non-Georgian speaking audience, especially those not already familiar with the details of the original story, but where it works it is very powerful.