Adapted by Guy Masterson from George Orwell's novel
Guy Masterson Productions
The Corn Exchange Newbury
Guy Masterson is a master craftsman of storytelling and for two compelling hours he captivated the Corn Exchange’s audience with his brilliant adaption of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
It is an absolute joy to watch Masterson’s physical skill, dexterity and sheer energy as he creates all the animal characters with superb aplomb.
Masterson has been touring Orwell’s allegoric fairy tale of inequality, power, privilege and revolution for the past 18 years. With over 2,000 performances in such diverse places as India, Hong Kong and the USA, this powerful story is as relevant today as it was when written in the 1940s as a candid expose of Stalin’s Soviet communism.
Indeed some of our present day politicians are lampooned with their hunger for power and political propaganda.
The plot follows the animal rebellion at Manor Farm where farmer Jones and the rest of the humans are driven out of the farm following his cruelty and exploitation of the animals.
Napoleon, the pig, is elected leader and so Animalism is born where, “all animals are equal” and any creature that that walks on two legs is bad. But Napoleon turns out to be a tyrannical dictator ensuring that the pigs get all the fruits of the farm and eventually starts trading with the humans, slowly changing the rules to favour the pigs.
He is assisted by Squealer who is his main supporter and propagandist and Boxer who is the hard-working horse whose mantra when things goes wrong is, “I must work harder.” Clover is his constant companion who becomes the matriarch to the other animals.
Masterson impressively creates the characters of the pretentious pony Mollie, who loves her red ribbons and eventually returns back to the humans, and the wise old donkey Benjamin, and then there are the chickens, the sheep, goats, cows and aggressive dogs, each effectively performed with a different voice and movement that is so convincing.
Eventually the principles of Animalism crumble as the pigs take on more human characteristics, walking on two feet, living in the farmhouse and ruling over the rest of the animals.
The clever use of sound effects and the striking lighting enhance this simply-staged production that only uses a box as a stage prop.
This is a powerful tour-de-force performance from an exceedingly accomplished actor that is utterly enthralling.
Reviewer: Robin Strapp