News, events and schools' information for families across Bath and West Wiltshire

Ian Waller reviews a creative and visually engaging adaption of the George Orwell classic

The new production of Animal Farm at the Theatre Royal Bath is stunning. This is a wonderfully innovative, clever and visually incredible adaptation of the George Orwell classic satirical allegorical tale of animals taking over the farm where they are so mistreated and based both on the build up to the Russian revolution in 1917 and the rule of Stalin, but also with clear relevance to today’s political situation across Europe and beyond.

Right from the start, with Farmer Jones carrying pig carcasses across the stage while the audience are still taking their seats, this is a production that demands rapt attention, both as a result of the clever adaptation of the storyline and the incredible portrayal of events.

Boxer (puppeteers Elisa De Gray, Matt Tait and Rayo Patel) and Squeela (puppeteers Ailsa Dalling and Matt Churcher) (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

The stunning puppetry that brings the farmyard characters to life generates a real ‘Wow!’ factor to the production, with each of the life-size creatures manipulated on stage by black clad puppetry artists, responding to recorded vocal performances from the likes of Robert Glenister and Juliet Stevenson, and moving as if they are real creatures. The highest compliment to the skills on show is that as the plot progresses, you almost stop seeing the puppeteers and focus on the beasts as living, talking creatures.

Cockerel with puppeteer Rayo Patel in Animal Farm (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Throughout the scenery is basic and industrial, an ideal accompaniment to what is basically a brutal tale of cruelty and betrayal. With a electronic board above the stage adding the timeline for the action, as well details of the demise of the characters, as the story unfolds the genius of the original novel is so clear to see and you can’t help but pick out the parallels with today’s political figures.

It’s no surprise that the packed Theatre Royal included rows and rows of school-aged scholars, clearly from Bath and beyond… What a fantastic way to bring studies of classical literature and political history to life than through such creative and clever storytelling. If only the theatre could be more available to all children…

As the plot develops and the true foundations of the storytelling evolve, even with such a well-know tale told with puppets, there are still moments of real drama, emotion and even violence, and you can’t help but feel for the characters on stage, as they’re promised so much and are yet ultimately duped.

I can’t speak highly enough of Animal Farm – this really is theatre at its most creative and most certainly to be recommended.

Animal Farm at the Theatre Royal Bath runs until 5 March. For more details click here.