Bertolt Brecht 1928
Peter Brook 1967
National Theatre George Orwell Peter Hall 1984
Cirque de Soleil Forever..
A NOISE WITHIN 2022 Julia Roderiguez - Elliott.
|Animal Farm The Ensemble|
Angela Balogh Calin's open and engaging set greets the Opening Night audience at A Noise Within's return to live theatre. The stage is broad. An upright piano is seen up left. Other music will come from other side of the stage. The Union Jack hangs limp down right.
The idea in the ironic year 1984 for Peter Hall and the National Theatre to decide to take up a pithy allegory and by adding music and heavy physical staging, create a show that would not only be topical (in 1984 Margaret Thatcher was the conservative PM of Great Britain) but would call out the idea of a despot lying through his teeth. (or big fat piggy nose) to swindle those who have elevated him with the best of their intentions to high office. It is a failed idea that finds them in harm's way... and, worse.
Whether the name George Orwell.. a Nostradamus for the Twentieth Century, rings a bell or not, the resources of the Brits to bring his excoriating 1945 novel, "Animal Farm" to the stage with music is a very interesting surprise. Orwell's novel, "1984" certaihly has been a harbinger of things to come, as, perhaps has "Animal Farm: The Play" in 2022
Metaphors that come with this staging are prescient and chilling any way you look at it. The premise in this production sticks pretty much to the original novel. The idea of disadvantaged "Animals" seeking a better life for themselves as it was with Russian peasants so long ago, soon find their lives compromised. It is diffcult to not think of MAGA supporters of the 45th president of the United States while observing how these critters are manipulated by the crafty and charismatic leader, Napoleon (Rafael Goldstein), as the politics of their times unfolds and... unravels.
The allegory moves with reflections mostly of Stalin's Russia. From production notes we see that Manor Farm (Russia), where the livestock are treated poorly by the cruel farmer, Mr. Jones (Bert Emmett: nice whip work!) begin to discuss self rule. (Marat / Sade: We want a Revolution.. Now..). The animals begin to listen to a wise old pig, Old Major (Geoff Elliott later returning as the sycophantic draft horse Boxer) reflecting "The Communist Manifesto" via the teachings of Engels, Marx and Lenin. Old Major declares the idea that a Revolution may be the only way for the downtrodden critters to survive. Old Major (Lenin) dies but is brought back with his skull hung in the Barn Yard as a tribute to his idea of a Utopian Society.
Slow moving at the get go, the piece is tightly choreographed and presentational. Echoing the original production, the animals who are led to chant, "Four legs good. Two legs bad" use various props to create four limbs. Somehow the chickens are given a pass.
After agreeing by consensus that a list of egalitarian 'rules' will govern the new collective, what evolves can only be described as mass hypnosis or hysteria. The workers in the barnyard now must either go along with the 'program' that the dynamic screamer, Napoleon, has created or face dire consequences. As Napoleon gains power, the original idealistic 'manifesto' of rules all agreed upon by the democratic collective have been adjusted to fit the agenda of the now ruling society: the Pigs! The chant has been changed: "Four legs good. Two legs BAD!" becomes "Four legs good, Two legs better!" The pigs all now strand up straight. "All Animals are created Equal,, but, some Animals are more equal than others."
Without a score card it's difficult to tell the players. Standout Cassandra Marie Murphy as Moses, the crow, flies to the flag pole to proclaim that there's a better land waiting for the true believers. Deborah Strang as the motherly mare, Clover, delivers as always. There were glitches that fall mostly to casting, but over all, this ensemble is totally dedicated to Julia Rodriguez-Elliott's imaginative direction. Unless there's a choreographer credit that I've missed, she should be credited with the excellent ensemble staging.
Fight Choreography by Kenneth R.Merckx, Jr. and Assistant Fight Choreographer Marc Leclerc.
Live music on the stage: always welcome.
Music Direction: Rod Bagheri
Musician 1: Woodwinds: David Catalan
Musician 2: Trumpet, Flugelhorn: Nathan Johnson
Tony Valdès's Wig & Make-Up Design with Dillon Nelson's masks are great. Costumes also by set desinger Calin! bring the story to life dramatically.
The Elliotts and A Noise Within have blown out the stops to create a spectacle. It is an allegory for our times? Or, perhaps just a very imaginative show? It must be seen.
Napoleon . . . . . . . . Rafael Goldstein*
Benjamin . . . . . . . . . . . Jeremy Rabb*
Snowball/Mr. Whymper: Stanley Andrew Jackson*
Squealer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Trisha Miller*
Clover . . . . Deborah Strang*
Cassandra Marie Murphy*
Mollie/Hen/Pigeon/Dog/Cow. . . . . . .Nicole Javier*
Old Major/Boxer . . . . . . . . . Geoff Elliott*
Muriel . . . . . . Philicia Saunders*
Mr. Jones/Sheep . . . . . . . .Bert Emmett*
Cat/Mr. Pilkington/Hen . . . . . Sedale Threatt Jr
The Stage Manager is Pat Loeb. Hello, Pat!
ANIMAL FARM : THE PLAY
Adapted by Peter Hall
A Noise Within
3352 E Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
Performances September 3–October 2
• Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.: Sept. 1 (Preview) and Sept. 29 ONLY
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 2 (Preview), Sept. 9**, Sept. 16**, Sept. 23**, Sept. 30
• Saturdays at 2 p.m.: Sept. 10, Sept. 17, Sept. 24, Oct. 1 (no matinee on Sept. 3)
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 3 (Opening Night), Sept. 10, Sept. 17, Sept. 24, Oct. 1
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: Aug. 28 (Preview), Sept. 4, Sept. 11**, Sept. 18, Sept. 25, Oct. 2
*Pre-performance symposium with noted scholar at 6:45 p.m. prior to the preview on August 31 (included in ticket price)
**Post-performance conversations with the artists on Fridays, Sept. 9; Sept.16; Sept. 23; and Sept. 30, and on Sunday, Sept. 11 (included in ticket price)
Tickets and information: