Revolution Farm, Newham City Farm, theatre review: A powerful update of Orwell's classic

 

Paul Taylor
Friday 22 August 2014 09:15
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A scene from Revolution Farm
A scene from Revolution Farm

Instead of “Four legs good, two legs bad”, the animals are whipped up to chant “Four legs badass, two legs wasteman” in this terrifically powerful update – adapted by James Kenworth and directed by James Martin Charlton – of Orwell's timeless Soviet Union-inspired fable of revolutionary ideals betrayed by the crushing of its left wing and the rise of a a self-serving elite.

The unique selling points of this version – which resounds with troubling echoes of our own predicament today in Britain – are not just the in-yer-face modernity of the language and attitudes, but the fact that it unfolds as a promenade performance in the precincts of a genuine inner-city farm.

Thanks to Ian Teague's excellent design and costumes (half-masks, adapted hoodies etc), there's a weird cognitive dissonance between the enlightened trappings of the actual farm and the atrocities (purges registered as the crashing of bodies against the wooden walls of a shut barn) that are fictionally perpetrated upon it.

Young amateur actors play the bulk of the vilely duped animals. Nicola Alexis is transfixingly menacing as a Mugabe-like Daddy Love (the Stalin stand-in the book) and Kevin Kinson breaks your heart as the trusting workhorse Warrior and Andreas Angelis is horribly funny as Smoothy, Daddy Love's representative on earth.

“Heroes of the Revolution, I salute you!” he declares raising his hipflask and promptly keeling over drunk on officially unrevolutionary booze.

Highly recommended.

2 performances a day until 24 August; www.ticketsource.co.uk

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