ANIMAL FARM – Assembly George Square

GUEST CRITIC PHILIP FISHER IS AWED BY GEORGIAN ORWELL..

 

 

Anyone expecting a children’s show from Guy Masterson’s adaptation of Orwell could be in for a shock. This deeply political production, performed by a large ensemble from Keti Dolidze’s Tumanishvili Film Actors Theatre of Tbilisi, Georgia can be quite terrifying. In fact, its impact and mood are closer to what we expect from 1984 rather than Animal Farm.

It takes a little time to tune into the 90-minute play, partly because it is performed in Georgian with English surtitles; but also because the animals (a large menagerie) are only identifiable thanks to the strong physical acting capabilities of cast members. Once they get going, the classifications become pretty clear and the audience is treated to some chillingly effective imagery, courtesy of designer Simon Macahbeli.

The story is familiar but even so, takes on new connotations when delivered by actors from a country that was for so long a Soviet state and home to Josef Stalin. What seems like a hopeful beginning, when the animals are freed from the established tyranny of Farmer Jones and his human henchmen doesn’t last long. The seven commandments laid down to regulate life are soon forgotten as the terrible Napoleon, given a fearsome mien by leading actor George Kipshidze, begins his civil war against the more benign Snowball, Vano Dugladze.

Soon the animals are divided into two factions and the farm has become the USSR under Stalin, complete with plans, empty promises and enslavement, state-sponsored murder not too far behind.
The animals react very differently to Napoleon and his black hench-dogs, but one the most poignant experiences is that of Zurab Getsadze’s stalwart, workhorse Boxer who keeps the faith to the end. Which comes in the knackers’ yard, not the promised hospital ward.

This very special production is an undoubted Edinburgh highlight, thanks to a powerful adaptation and the commitment of its talented cast. It would be good to see it transfer to London in the autumn.

http://www.edfringe.com to 24th

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