Orwell’s masterpiece tells of the rebellion of the animals on Manor Farm against the cruel farmer Mr. Jones. A new order is established, a perfect society where all animals are equal, but gradually unease and fear take hold as the leader Napoleon and his class of pigs become rulers of the farm and set about destroying their rivals.
This is the story of how a revolution goes wrong. How the genuine disaffection of those in desperate need of change becomes weaponized and putrefied by a ruthless political class. From the brutal Stalinist regime that prompted Orwell in 1945 to write the story, to the empty promises of today’s demagogues, Animal Farm is a chilling reminder of how absolute power is seized and how it’s retained.
This production will shatter any illusions that this is a fairy tale! New Theatre is thrilled to be presenting this world premiere of a new adaptation by young Australian theatre-maker, Saro Lusty-Cavallari – a recent graduate from the Victorian College of the Arts, who is also directing this production in his New Theatre debut.
On why he was drawn to adapting Orwell’s iconic novel, Saro says: “Coming of age around the GFC, with climate change constantly looming over everything and the resurgence of fascism in the last few years, I definitely feel an affinity for texts like Animal Farm, that essentially challenge us to radically reimagine the limits of how we organise society,” he says.
“To bring Animal Farm to life in 2020, especially after our society has just faced another challenge to its sustainability with the coronavirus pandemic, is to ask of the audience “can we do better?” “Is this all there is?” says Saro.
Saro also shares his thoughts on working through COVID-19: “When the whole world is kind of falling apart, delaying a play is hardly your biggest worry and even before we had to postpone rehearsals, it was clear that most of us were too anxious and distracted to work properly,” he says.
“When we returned to the play once government health guidelines made it possible, the text seemed even more immediate, and all these disturbing parallels started popping up.”
“A key motif in Animal Farm is the betrayal of sacrifice, that those animals that give their all are never rewarded with what they’re promised. I can already see that happening with nurses, essential workers and the less well-off who have sacrificed so much during the pandemic.”
“We’re all this together” is what we’re told but of course we know at the end of the day that the same inequalities just reassert themselves. It would be nice to think that lockdown was spent learning lines or sprucing up the script but we all just took a complete break. It was too hard to try and keep something alive that seemed so uncertain.”
“But there was such an energy that was unleashed when we returned to the rehearsal room. I think giving ourselves that mandatory break from the text and rehearsal allowed us to come at it with much fresher eyes. We’re very excited to share the work with audiences,” says Saro.
Saro has pulled together a strong and diverse cast, with the majority of actors making their New Theatre debuts, including Kevin Batliwala, Anika Bhatia, Sue Broberg, Zoe Crawford, Ben Dewstow, Laura Djanegara, Imogen French, Lachlan Stevenson and Tiffany Wong.
Design team members Carmody Nicol (set) and Claudia Mirabello (costumes) are both working on their first New Theatre productions, while Jaymes Julian Wilson takes on sound design after previously being an operator here. Assistant director Margaret Thanos, Production Manager Aiden Lam, and Stage Management team Claire Ferguson and Amelie James-Power are also making New Theatre debuts.
Director & Adaptation: Saro Lusty-Cavallari Featuring: Kevin Batliwala, Anika Bhatia, Sue Broberg, Zoe Crawford, Ben Dewstow, Laura Djanegara, Angus Evans, Nathalie Fenwick, Rob Ferguson, Imogen French, Brendan Miles, Bella Ridgeway, Eleanor Ryan, Lachlan Stevenson, Tiffany Wong
Set Designer: Carmody Nicol Costume Designer: Claudia Mirabello Lighting Designer: Rhys Mendham Sound Designer: Jaymes Julian Wilson Assistant Director: Margaret Thanos Production Manager & Swing Stage Manager: Aiden Lam Stage Manager: Claire Ferguson Assistant Stage Manager: Amelie James-Power
New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 14 October – 7 November 2020 (preview: 13 October)
Information and Bookings: www.newtheatre.org.au
Image: © Zeferli/iStock