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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

ANIMAL FARM (article first published : 2003-05-6)

In 1946, British writer George Orwell wrote Animal Farm, a novel that was to stand the test of time. It is just as relevant today as it was then. It would have been pertinent 300 years ago and, no doubt, will be so in another 100 years. As far ahead, one assumes, as is the future of mankind.

Animal Farm deals with man’s inhumanity to man, particularly when the influences of greed and lust for power overtake commonsense and true democracy. Despite Orwell’s prosperous background, he became a socialist and lived among the lower social classes and down-and-outs. His novel is the result of his disillusionment with Communism and he uses a farmyard as his setting with the animals as his “people”.

Having overthrown the farmer, the animals take over the establishment. All animals are declared equal and a glorious democratic future beckons. They draw up simple relevant rules such as no animals may “sleep in a bed” or “drink alcohol”. Before long, the situation changes. The pigs learn to read and write and set themselves above the others, citing their new-found literacy as their suitability to manage the farm. Soon this level of power is not enough and they take over completely. They introduce attacker dogs, break all the original rules, ban the revolution anthem and sway the emotions of the farmyard community through carefully-placed propaganda. The rest of the animals find themselves working harder and in poorer conditions than ever before.

Jerry Pooe and his hard-working Eager Artists Company are presenting Animal Farm in the form of a musical with many of the numbers workshopped by the cast. Accompaniment Is by Sandile Mpungose on the piano. Now extended by public demand to May 30, it runs in The Playhouse Drama mainly for schools audiences but the public is welcome to attend.

Don’t miss this chance to see some of Durban’s most exciting up-and-coming talent. The performers of the Eager Artists Company are extremely accomplished and get better every time I see them. Dressed in minimal costuming with placards round their necks to identify their characters (many of them appear in several guises), they offer a compelling interpretation of Orwell’s novel.

Director Jerry Pooe has drawn excellent performances from his cast. Buyani Shangase and Mbeki Mabhida are notable as the obese power-grabbing Napoleon and his obsequious sidekick Squealer. Mnatha Vika is delightful as the proud carthorse Boxer. Wonderboy Gumede and Dumisile Mqadi impressed with their vocal projection and stage presence while Xolani Henema pulls in many of the laughs as a variety of animals. Charmain Mpofu was Clover, Skhumbuzo Nsele was Benjamin and Donkey and Mxolisi Ngubane played the human character, Mr Jones.

The stage setting is attractive but I feel that more use could have been made of lighting effects.

Eager Artists acknowledge the support of The Playhouse Company and the National Arts Council. The company celebrates its 10th anniversary shortly but before then the company will travel to Amsterdam as well as to Buffalo in New York for their annual visit.

The show is open to the public and runs from Tuesday to Sunday. Evening shows at 19h00 with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 15h00. Book at Computicket. – Caroline Smart




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