Animal Farm

Soulpepper stages creative adaptation of Orwell's classic satire

Presented by Soulpepper Theatre Company
Written by George Orwell
Adapted by Anthony MacMahon
Directed by Ravi Jain

Animal Farm ensemble. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Soulpepper's new production of George Orwell's Animal Farm couldn't be more timely. Written in 1945, this ominous allegory for the rise of Stalin in Russia remains relevant today as a keen exploration of human, or "animal," nature. In fact, it's a powerful reminder of how history often repeats itself.

Many will be familiar with Animal Farm as part of their school curriculum. Soulpepper's production, adapted by Anthony MacMahon and directed by Why Not Theatre's Ravi Jain, packs a hard political punch while offering plenty of physical comedy to lighten the mood throughout. 

The action takes place on Jones' farm where the animals are waking up to the reality of their situation as captives of their human master. In the first scene, Old Major (Jennifer Villaverde), an elderly pig, delivers a rousing speech introducing the idea of an animal utopia—where all animals are created equal. This talk inspires the animals to revolt and overthrow Farmer Jones, transforming the system from "Farmerism" to "Animalism."

It doesn't take long before the opportunistic pigs take over as leaders of this new society with the self-interested Napoleon (Rick Roberts channeling Trump) emerging on top. After persuading his followers with populist rhetoric, Napoleon convinces them that his opponent, the intellectual Snowball (Sarah Wilson), is a traitor working with Farmer Jones and she is banished from the farm. Under Napoleon and his right hand Squealer (Miriam Fernandes), the animals are assured that their quality of life is improving when actually their food rations are shrinking and their working hours are increasing every day. The wool is pulled firmly over their eyes, so to speak.

Some of the animals, including Benjamin the cynical donkey (Guillermo Verdecchia), and Mercy the rebel chicken (Raquel Duffy), question Napoleon's leadership. While others, such as the naively hard-working horse Boxer (Oliver Dennis), buy into the promise of a better future only to be tragically misled.

This imaginative production features genius costume and set design by Ken MacKenzie, who crafts and shapes everyday clothes into artistic animal pelts and parts. MacMahon's adaptation is cleverly modern with references to issues such as immigration, job automation, television advertising and fake news to name a few. Other choices are not as appealing: for example, the constant use of voice distortion and amplification is distracting and grows tiresome after the first few scenes.

Otherwise, Jain's production moves along at a steady pace and boasts brilliant performances by a talented cast. Each performer is fully present in his or her animal body, demonstrating impressive commitment right down to the smallest movement. Part comic feast, part intellectual harvest, this show gives audiences plenty to talk about after curtain call.

Animal Farm runs until April 7, 2018 at the Young Centre. Visit for more information and to buy tickets. 

Show Dates: 
Thu, 2018-03-15 - Sat, 2018-04-07
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