Writer: George Orwell
Adaptor: James Kenworth
Reviewer: Vicki Taylor
A sleepy community farm in an East London borough might not be the most obvious place to birth a revolution, but until August 24th Newham City Farm takes on a unique transformation. James Kenworth has adapted Orwell’s nightmarish classic Animal Farm into Revolution Farm, a Community Links production for a young urban cast. Newham school children, actors from local youth groups and professional performers unite in a show that’s part theatre, part social project, to get youngsters exploring democracy, anarchy and power.
We wait on painted picnic tables for the show to start, with the young cast gathered in an imposing gang in a nearby vegetable patch. They’re all dressed in hoodies with a variety of little cardboard snouts poking out underneath. This all has the potential to be laughable, but Ian Teague’s costume design is genuinely unnerving against the farm setting.
The show has a powerful beginning; we are lead into a barn to witness a group of animals plotting to overthrow the farmers and claim the land for themselves. Bloodthirsty young animals chant ‘kill the scum!’ and beat their fists on the outside walls of the barn. The atmosphere of the show is extremely tense and impressively maintained for the whole 1 hour and 45 minutes.
The well known ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ is re-packaged into ‘four legs badass, two legs wasteman’, thoroughly updating Orwell’s story for the young actors. There are new characters too; the controlling pigs are Smoothy and the terrifying Daddy Love. There is a real sense that the children own the story and have had an influence over its development. Orwell was inspired by the Soviet Union and Stalin, but you can imagine that James Kenworth drew his from the Arab Springs, Syria or even the London Riots.
It is the ideas behind Revolution Farm that are the most engaging. As a performance there is certainly room for improvement, but as a social project it’s undoubtedly been a success.
Runs until 24 August| Photo:Prodeepta Das