Review: Animal Farm at UCD DramSoc TheatreThe director of this show, Oisín MagFhogartaigh, believes that many people are familiar with Animal Farm. Many have read it, but how many can say that they have seen it? This was likely the case for most of the audience attending DramSoc's production of Animal Farm, familiar with the work but without having seen it depicted. I imagine many questions were rife in the mind of the audience as they entered with so many aspects of the text seemingly impossible to stage. Orwell's book tells a simple fable about the animals of a small English farm rising up against their human master and striving to create an animal utopia in his absence, and as the story unfolds it becomes clear that this utopia quickly becomes a tyrannical dystopia. The first hurdle this production faced was how to render human actors as believable animals on the farm. This is cleverly resolved through the way in which the actors portrayed their respective animals; rather than attempt to go for photo-realistic costuming and getting down on all fours, the actors instead wore a simple costume of black trousers and a white vest, complete with some makeup to finish the look. This was paired with the actors' movements, which became very important, the performers' actions reminiscent of the animal they were portraying. The horses and donkeys pawed at the ground, the birds were nimble-footed. This proved to be an effective measure to render the characters on the stage. Furthermore, it proved a testimony to the actors' ability. Ryan O’Donnell in the role as Boxer the horse, Shane Mohan in the role of Snowball the pig, and Katie-May Byrne as Clover the horse were particular stand-outs in terms of craft.
It felt quite disjointed at many points, the characters running on and off stage after only a couple moments of dialogueThe direction and adaption of the work left a lot to be desired, however, particularly in the first half of the show. It felt quite disjointed at many points, the characters running on and off stage after only a couple moments of dialogue. As a spectator it was often frustrating given how little time we were left to get to know the characters, and it was a shame given the obvious skill of the cast at hand that the direction left little to no time for the characters to breathe. It is understandable, given the complexity of the novel at hand and the particular way in which the story unfolds, that the performance may be difficult to adapt in many ways. However, perhaps another draft of the script and a bit more time spent considering the way in which the audience might perceive the staccato-style scene changes may not have gone amiss.
It was a shame given the obvious skill of the cast at hand that the direction left little to no time for the characters to breatheIt would be a shame not to mention the sound design and lighting of the production, which was wonderful at every turn. The use of Pink Floyd and other music set the apocalyptic tone of the production and gathered pace towards the end in a way that added to the feeling of impending doom. The use of song and percussion on stage unexpectedly gave the characters a hitherto unseen depth; this, working in conjunction with the lighting, perpetuated a cohesive vision in terms of mood and setting. The production was enjoyable overall, a treat to watch in terms of the performances on display. Although a lack of clarity in the script and direction hurt the production as a whole, the task of adapting a book such as Animal Farm for the stage was executed in an enjoyable and thought-provoking fashion.