James Kenworth, inspired by George Orwell's Animal Farm
Newham City Farm
From 19 August 2014 to 24 August 2014
Review by Anita-Marguerite Butler
If like me you have always meant to visit Newham City Farm then Revolution Farm - an adaptation of Animal Farm - George Orwell’s seminal political allegory – presents the perfect introduction.
With the unique blessing of AM Heath for The George Orwell Estate, playwright James Kenworth and Director James Martin Charlton keep close to the original narrative, rendering events explicable for those new to the novel. A modern twist is added with the use of urban language – an urbanity percussioned by occasional planes taking off from City Airport nearby.
The production’s opening barn scene is particularly effective in setting the tone as a small group of animals plots, by torchlight, to overthrow their cruel human captors - the farmers. As in Orwell, this quest for equality is soon tested as certain animals assume leadership, with any doubts as to their actions explained via a scapegoat – here ‘Hero’ – a character that embodies our current blame-culture.
For one and a half hours we are led to various locations on the farm – barn, pen, enclosure – all in close proximity, but entailing walking and standing for spectators.
Children from local schools support the action throughout playing hens, dogs, pigeons, etc (some budding thesps here) and their presence embellishes the idea of innocents (‘lesser’ animals) being duped by their ‘superiors’ – here, as for Orwell, the pigs.
Of the professional actors, Nicola Alexis is a powerhouse as tyrant Daddy Love; and Kevin Kinson is a convincing and touching Warrior – a workhorse (channeling the novel’s tragic ‘Boxer’) who believes hard graft is the answer.
The production conveys the enduring importance of Orwell’s story of education versus ignorance, and rhetoric’s power for both good and evil; the enactment of the final reveal, here, is strong indeed.
There are five more chances to catch Revolution Farm (including matinees Sat/Sun only). As summer ends, this is great for families with children aged 12+, particularly in the afternoon when the farm’s animals are in view. However, in the evening, as the light draws in (bring a jumper) a sleeping farm is effective.
The farm is easily reached – a ten-minute walk from Prince Albert on the DLR. If Animal Farm is on the curriculum this term, what better way to introduce it?