THEATRE REVIEW: Animal Farm – National Youth Theatre Rep Company  

Very clearly reimagined as muscular, vibrant, ensemble-based physical theatre, supported by John Elliott‘s relentless, menacing soundtrack, this riveting take on Animal Farm opens with a mock Pathé News item. It’s immaculately voiced by Will Stewart, who also does a simpering, comfort-loving pragmatic Mollie, and introduces each character.

Then we’re into the timeless story about the all-too-familiar rebellion, power and corruption cycle. Apart from the addition of a few extra characters, Tatty Hennessy’s script follows Orwell pretty closely.

Every single member of this excellent ensemble is so watchable that it’s almost insidious to single any out. However, I must commend Adeola Yemitan for a thoughtful, troubled Clover and Nkhanise Phirl is deeply moving as Clara the hen who is forced to give up her eggs – we really feel her distraught agony. I loved James-Eden Hutchinson as Milo, a pigeon who offers occasional, insouciant, disinterested commentary from the top of a ladder and Connor Crawford has all the makings of a fine character actor – swaggering about in a fat suit as both farmers and then doing a nice cameo as a pig which sings propaganda songs. Will Atiomo delights as Boxer, the stalwart worker who asks simple honest questions and whose ending is both tragic and traumatic. 

Director Ed Stambollouian has drawn extraordinary work out of these young, trainee actors who made me laugh, cry, wince and gasp in wonderment. Theatre experiences of this quality are rare. Thank you, National Youth Theatre.

Review by Susan Elkin