Animals – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review

Animals – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review

Louise White Performance, Ireland
Venue: Samuel Beckett Theatre
Preview(s): 5 Oct
Date(s): 5 Oct. 7.30pm, 6-7 Oct. 7.30pm, 8 Oct. 2.30pm & 7.30pm, 9 Oct. 2.30pm

This is a version of Animal Farm, the novel written by George Orwell in 1945. The story is an allegory and reflects the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 told from the perspective of animals within a farmyard. While the production does follow the plot of the novel, it is not a straight forward telling, with a Brechtian flavour and music throughout.

At the start of this production, 6 actors emerge from the wings and stand in a line at the front of the stage. They take turns to step forward and tell the audience their names and the roles they will play in this production. They are an ethnically diverse group and each is dressed in flamboyant clothing. They then start to tell the audience other aspects of the play and their lives. Lórcan Strain gives the audience a short history of Bertolt Brecht and his theatrical style. Ashley Xie tells the audience of her audition techniques. The sole black actor, Gabriel Awedusi, is troubled that he is playing two characters who die during the production. He’s concerned he’s falling into the role of the Magical Negro, a trope in American films where a black actor dies to aid the main characters on their journey. They then start the story in earnest, with the animal uprising taking place before our eyes.

The two musicians on stage are dressed as sheep! The band members play percussion, keyboard and guitar at various times, with a mix of styles of music, including, rock, hard core and some slower pieces. The cast members sing and perform harmonies in some of the musical numbers, where as others are solely dance pieces, with shows of wild abandon from the now free animals.

For those who are not familiar with the details of the story of Animal Farm, it can be a little hard to follow. The characters do not wear animal costumes, although their choice of clothing does reflect the animal they are playing. At times, the play feels closer to a socialist rally, where the workers have taken over. The rise of the pigs is brilliantly played by Lucy Miller, who uses modern middle management speech to justify their actions as they slowly take control of the collective.

The music is at the core of this piece, and whether you enjoy it will reflect your own musical taste. From my perspective, the musical moments worked well, especially a slow stripped down version of the Abba song “Lay All Your Love on Me” which was genuinely chilling. The director and writer Louise White is building quite an impressive catalogue of works, and this piece quickly follows Privilege: The Musical! which was performed at the Mermaid Arts Centre earlier this year. Her concerns on race and discrimination are easy to see in her work, and reflect a more diverse Ireland. This is a very modern spin on the now classic story, and captures the zeitgeist of our times.

Cast and Creative Team
Written and Directed by Louise White
Produced by Killian Coyle
Concept: Louise White
Choreography: Sibéal Davitt
Set Design: Pai Rathaya
Lighting Design: Stephen Dodd
Costume Design: Saileóg O’Halloran
Sound Design: Fiona Sheil
Music Composition: Elis Czerniak
Dramaturg: Sarah-Jane Moloney
Performed by: Gabriel Awedusi, Lórcan Strain, Gemma Kane, Lucy Miller, Dmitry Vinokurov, Ashley Xie

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