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Devastating and heart-breaking, George Orwell’s world-famous novel Animal Farm is brought to life in this moving fable of political revolution.

Clover (Yana Penrose/Edie Edmundson) and Squeela Squeela (Ailsa Dalling/Matt Churcher). Photographs – Manuel Harlan

Animal Farm: a critical exposé on political hypocrisy and diplomatic rule. For this reason, George Orwell’s novel is regarded as one of the most important books of the 20th Century, and The Birmingham Rep beautifully capture the devastation and heartbreak of the story. Directed by Robert Icke, it tells the powerful tale of barn animals forming a coup against Farmer Jones (Jonathan Dryden Taylor) in order to take ownership of their lives.

As the production continues, we see the revolutionary constitution go from “all animals are equal” to “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Criticising totalitarianism being disguised by the mandates of communism, this play should be regarded as a vital watch for everyone, no matter your political ideology.

The Rep takes Orwell’s fable of revolution, and it’s aftermath, and forms a dynamic, contemporary piece through design. The puppet animals are constructed impeccably (designed by Toby Olie) and are brought to life by an incredibly versatile team of actors. This is complimented by the set (Bunny Christie), which involves an electronic notice board recording characters’ deaths. The props are nothing short of impeccable, with intricate miniatures of each character depicting parts of the story, continuously keeping the audience engaged. Alongside the set is a musical score (Tom Gibbons) that forcefully conveys the rhetoric of the Russian Revolution, enveloping the audience in a world driven by power and leadership.

Throughout this 90-minute production, it is the subtle design shifts that truly hold the most influence. From the blood on the farmer’s apron, to the costume changes of the pigs (Bunny Christie), each design detail is compellingly reflective. Ultimately, this play critiques the corrupting concepts of power and control. It exposes the audience to the regulatory ways in which power is gained and maintained, creating a political piece of theatre which engrosses the audience devastatingly. I, for one, spent most of the play watching it through tears.

Animal Farm runs at The Birmingham Rep until Sat February 5. Tickets are available here.

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