Theatre Review: Animal Farm

Theatre Royal Bath,until 1 June
Words by Melissa Blease

George Orwell’s allegorical farmyard-based tale Animal Farm describes – in ostensibly easy to digest, political satire format – how ruthless tyrants with narcissistic personality disorders will do everything it takes to get what they want, regardless of the impact on the world around them.

Guy Masterson’s one-man production of Animal Farm (a global phenomenon directed by Tony Boncza that has, since its inception in the mid-1990s, has been performed over 2000 times) has taken Orwell’s artistic purpose and breathed new life into it. An actor oft-described as “master of the art of performing classic literary masterpieces”, Masterson is highly-acclaimed for his emotional and physical virtuosity and his ability to bring multiple characters to vivid life in one exhilarating, energetic solo performance – and this production fully endorses his reputation.

Barefoot and dressed in a simple boiler suit, Masterson brings all the characteristics that make a horse a horse, or a pig a pig, or a dog/cat/sheep/goat/hen/goose/etc to stunningly evocative effective life on stage, as expressive, graceful, funny, fervent or tragic as each scene requires the character to be. Their journey may be bleak, but there’s plenty of humour, personality and lashings of humanity in the mix too, and audience reactions to certain scenes are palpably visceral. Meanwhile, recorded snippets from politicians past and present punctuate the narrative, bringing extra-added contemporary significance to the drama. This is proper storytelling at its affecting, transformative best: immersive, beguiling and flawless in execution… and revitalising a trail that Orwell blazed so many decades ago with exquisite elegance.

The stark reminder of the tactics used by those in power to build and retain their authority is all-too-relevant an admonition today; if ever there was a production that’s totally, utterly prescient right now, it’s this one; it may have, at the time of writing, moved on from Bath to pastures new, but it’s well worth travelling for.

For more information click here.