Players pull off a powerful production of Animal Farm

The pigs, left to right Jodie Constable, Katie Hills, Bonny Hazelwood and Amy Wittingdon, with Boxer the horse (Matt Grant)
The pigs, left to right Jodie Constable, Katie Hills, Bonny Hazelwood and Amy Wittingdon, with Boxer the horse (Matt Grant)

DIRECTOR Tony Bright achieved his ambition of ‘an extremely physical interpretation’ of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

He wanted a ‘collective collaborative feel’ for the Southwick Players’ production at The Barn Theatre, which ended on Saturday.

The play, the players’ Brighton and Hove Arts Council Drama Award entry, was performed in the round, with an effective set looking just like a farmyard.

We were seated near the back of the stalls but for those seated on the ground, right next to the action, it must have been a very moving experience.

The cast was not masked, relying in characterisation to tell us which animal they were, and they kept up the relevant movements and noises throughout. This very difficult task was presumably helped by the workshops Tony organised to help the actors play with the characters.

Surely, judge Keith Drinkel, who watched Thursday’s performance, must have starred Matt Grant on his sheet for his dramatic portrayal of Boxer.

You could really feel the weight of his load as the cart horse struggled to build the windmill, before finally collapsing in exhaustion.

Matt truly gave it his all and well deserved to be recognised for his outstanding performance.

Others who stood out included Geoff Marshall as Napoleon, Ron Common as Squealer and Debbie Creissen as Benjamin.

The only weak link, unfortunately, was the storyteller, who it was difficult to hear at Friday night’s performance, making him almost superfluous.

The other piece that didn’t quite work, for me, was at the beginning of the play, where Old Major told of his dream in silhouette, and the speech was pre-recorded.

Unfortunately, where I was sitting, the light was shining right in my eyes, so I couldn’t actually look up at the stage. Plus, the recording took away the immediacy and passion of the speech.

Aside from that, it was a tremendous performance, full of power, and really left a mark.

Anyone not familiar with the story, and its satirical criticism of communism, was helped by the excellent programme, which gave a detailed explanation of the animals and who they represented in the rise of the Soviet Union. So many programmes give very little information that it was nice to have one so easily readable and packed full of detail.