BLACK SWAN has done a great job re-imagining Animal Farm for the Trump era, though I came away feeling his lightweight authoritarianism was entertaining, but not really a worthy contender for the orchestrated tyranny of Stalin so chillingly captured by Orwell.
After all, Trump’s purges were little more than an abusive tweet and “DCM”, while Stalin signed off on the execution of 48,000 people on January 31, 1938 alone – an icy Monday morning around the water cooler if there ever was one.
But the Don’s rule gave playwright Van Badham plenty of fodder to inject some meme-like humour into Orwell’s 75-year-old story, mostly through images on a giant screen hovering over the stage which earned the odd cackle from the audience.
WAAPA graduate Megan Wilding set the pace from the get-go; her opening soliloquy was…OMG…so un-Orwellian with its profanity and breathless delivery that I totally lost the plot. But a well-timed pause and pout let me catch up and, yeah, she’d legit nailed those rust-belt Trump supporters who’d finally found a voice and a new champion.
Wilding’s Squealer, in an expanded role from the original text, was a great tool to kick the action along when needed and she delivered right to the end, even playing up to the audience mid-way to earn some piggy pre-applause.
ABC star Andrea Gibbs and Black Swan regular Alison Van Reeken helped keep the action trotting along at a good pace. I had a tiny mind wander somewhere in the middle, but as the script moved back towards Orwell’s original and Badham notched up the cynicism, I was re-engrossed. Boxer’s betrayal was obviously no surprise when it came, but even though we’d not met him as a character it was still a heart-wrenching jolt.
The cast did a fantastic job of carrying their multiple characters, never once straying throughout the performance, and were backed up by audio visuals delivered with punch and precision (I’m sure actors are, like me, are tired of sloppy lighting and sound effects spoiling their efforts).
It wasn’t a play to earn the crew a standing ovation, but I felt the applause at the end was meant warmly and genuinely – a really good night out at the theatre.
Black Swan State Theatre Company
Heath Ledger Theatre Until October 24