Animal Farm at Newcastle Theatre Royal

 Ad - We were provided with press tickets but not asked/paid to share this blog post and the theatre has had no input. 

Harry is studying GCSE Drama at the moment and has aspirations to become a screenwriter / director one day. We have always loved going to the theatre together and jumped back in the saddle tonight with a trip to Newcastle Theatre Royal to see Animal Farm. 

A re-imagining of George Orwell's Animal Farm runs at Newcastle Theatre Royal from 22-26 February 2022 and tickets are available from £10. This production is recommended for ages 11+ (strong language) and is a perfect half term treat to visit with any theatre-loving teen. The show runs for 90 minutes with no interval. You can find out more and buy tickets here. 

Both myself and Harry were aware of the story but had not read it or seen it on stage. After reading a brief synopsis though, I really thought it would be something we'd enjoy. We love anything thought-provoking and Animal Farm certainly fits that bill. 

The press images I had seen beforehand really reminded me of War Horse which is one of my favourite stage shows (in fact the puppetry for both plays is credited to the same person, Toby OliĆ©, for both) and it's fair to say we both had high hopes. 

If you are not familiar with the story, the animals of Manor Farm drive out the farmer and decide to run the farm themselves. Old Major, the prize boar gathers the animals together. He has a strange dream for a better future........ Animal Farm is a story of freedom, revolution and its aftermath. 

It turns out that revolution isn't what it seems and the rich just get richer as the workers are forced to work harder (and in less favourable conditions). 

This particular version of Animal Farm is a contemporary take on the modern fable with design by the four time Olivier award-winner Bunny Christie and directed by Robert Icke (whose version of 1984 was a smash-hit on Broadway and the West End). 

Wow we absolutely loved this version of Animal Farm. It's definitely not for the faint hearted though and a few families who had come along with younger children had to leave fairly early on. There is a lot of death & adult themes and I myself left feeling rather traumatised by it all. I wouldn't recommend for Primary aged children. 

For young people in Secondary school and beyond though, it is gripping and I honestly left with more questions than when I went in with. What is the point of revolution? Will things ever change or are we just stuck with this life? Is a 3 day week possible? How can we ever evolve as a society when we are so greedy? 

Harry is a real histroy buff and explained how the different pigs represented various communist figures including Marx, Stalin and Lenin. I'm glad he was there to remind me as my GCSE History is a little rusty now. It was so nice to connect and have a grown up conversation like this though. It's something we wouldn't usually talk about together. 

Harry mentioned the original book was written in 1945 during WWII and this actually blew my mind! I honestly could have been watching Boris Johnson on stage and kept drawing my own parallels with how he had acted during the pandemic as I watched. 

The puppetry was outstanding and you honestly don't even notice that there are people on the stage. It's all about the animals and the attention to detail is superb from the way the crows fly, the cat licks their paws and the horse wearily works through the night. It's like watching a special kind of dance. 

The characters were brilliant and were really brought to life in front of our eyes. I immediatly warmed to the gossipy chickens, the daft sheep, the faithful dog and hard-working horse.  

Harry and I both thought the music and staging were spectacular too. There are clever ways the story is paced with slow motion & changing depths and at selected points the whole room feels as if it is spinning around a scene. Very clever! The music really sets the tone and draws you into the story. Special nod to the lighting too, especially in the car scene. 

I used to love pigs. I'm not too sure how I feel about them now mind. It is weird that a play has made me feel this way. I certainly don't trust them. But really, it's not the pigs we should be worried about. It's what they represent. 

Animal Farm has been brought right up to date in this production and the 90 minutes flew by. Trying to find things to do with teens can be tricky but watching this production was the perfect way for me to spend time with Harry and he gave it a 5* review. I would have to agree, although the material was dark in places, the whole production was spectacular, thought provoking and beautifully produced. 

I love it when I leave a theatre stewing on something and Animal Farm did just that. I think I will probably be bringing aspects of it up with Harry in the days and weeks to come as we digest and talk about it more. What a fantastic evening.  

You can find out more and book tickets here. 


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