Tag Archives: Tatty Hennessy

Animal Farm

Animal Farm

★★★★

Royal and Derngate

Animal Farm

Animal Farm

Royal and Derngate, Northampton

Reviewed – 19th May 2021

★★★★

 

“multi-talented young actors tell this compulsive and provocative story”

 

The Royal Theatre in Northampton re-opens with a superb production from the National Youth Theatre REP Company of George Orwell’s fairy tale/allegory adapted for the stage by Tatty Hennessy.

We are introduced to the main players with a recorded voice-over (Will Stewart). Each animal has been clearly well workshopped and is meticulously caricatured. There is no wearing of animal masks, and little crawling on all fours. Base costumes (Jasmine Swan) are adorned with small signifiers: the pigs wear pink gilets; Minty the sheep, a white tutu and woollen bobble hat; the horses, brown leather belts and straps.

The simplicity of the set (Jasmine Swan), a backdrop of hanging plastic strips, allows the flexibility of multiple entrance and exit points and when the light catches their mud and dirt it gives a looming feeling of the abattoir. Generally effective lighting (Zoe Spurr) includes the dramatic landing of a helicopter, sensational backlit scenes to cast warning shadows and the occasional dramatic use of colour.

Director Ed Stambollouian intersperses full ensemble pieces with scenes focusing on individual characters where each animal gets their turn in the limelight. Each animal could carry more of the story, but all animals are not equal. Napoleon (Jack Matthew) is the main man (pig!) – the self-proclaimed leader of the Revolution. His transformation from pig to man-equal is the more impressive as he fights the animalistic urge to slip back squealing into the mud. Squealer (Matilda Rae) is the political spin-doctor, beautifully conniving and deceitful. The carthorse Boxer (Will Atiomo) with his maxim of “I will work harder” shows fine vocal colour and excellent physical movement. Much of the narration falls upon the mare Clover (Adeola Yemitan) who shines in her poignant personal scene.

The full ensemble scenes are rhythmic and physical (choreography by Vicki Igbokwe) with inventive and ingenious uses of buckets and ladders although handling of the latter sometimes appears clumsy in the close confines of the Royal stage. The hip-hop dance scene counting the seven animal commandments particularly stands out and the singing of the anthem Beasts of England (Composer John Elliott, Musical Director Jordan Clarke) would not sound out of place sung from the barricades of another revolutionary stage show. Whilst the initial Revolution seems too easily won, the Battle of the Cowshed is brilliantly portrayed: animals in formation across all angles of the stage defeat the cartoonish Farmer Giles with kick-ass action (Fight Director Enric Fortuño).

The second half does not sustain the dynamisms of the first as the size of the ensemble reduces, but it does include the most unsettling scene of the evening involving the worrying use of metal pails which evoke shades of the Lubyanka and Guantánamo.

The writer hopes in her programme notes that the show will make us angry. We clearly see how the hard work of the proletariat is exploited by the autocracy, how the honesty of the workers’ revolution is betrayed by its leaders. We see the lies and scheming of politicians as they push through their own vanity projects, air brush history, and steal from the populace… But after seeing these multi-talented young actors tell this compulsive and provocative story on stage I came away primarily with a satisfied feeling that such stories are once again being told. The anger can come later.

 

Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Ali Wright

 


Animal Farm

Royal and Derngate, Northampton until 22nd May

 

Reviewed this year by Phillip:
The Money | ★★★ | Online | April 2021

 

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Something Awful

Something Awful

★★★★★

VAULT Festival 2020

Something Awful

Something Awful

Cavern – The Vaults

Reviewed – 29th January 2020

★★★★★

 

“a fantastic production which is sure to have even the most hardened horror fan on the edge of their seat”

 

In 2014, two twelve-year-old girls from Wisconsin stabbed their supposed best friend 19 times in an attempt to appease the fictional internet creation Slender Man. Fortunately, the victim survived, having crawled to a road where she was found, and the two girls were subsequently found not guilty by mental disease or defect. Something Awful, the new play from award-winning Flux Theatre written by Tatty Hennessy and directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson, takes inspiration from this gruesome tale and the horrors that lurk on online forums.

Soph (Natalya Martin) and her best friend Jel (Monica Anne) love reading scary stories on websites such as Creepypasta, that is, until new girl Ellie (Melissa Parker) turns up with her own horror story of a mysterious figure with an axe in the nearby forest. The line between fiction and reality slowly begins to blur with disastrous consequences.

Something Awful takes a fascinating premise and addresses issues becoming increasingly relevant in our society. The ease in which children can access grotesque and inappropriate content on the internet is an obvious concern for parents, and the real-life case which the play is based on demonstrates the possible terrifying results of such exposure. A scene in which Soph gets her first period at a sleepover reminds us just how young these characters are despite the media they are consuming, and the quick installation of a VPN on their mobile devices shows just how quickly young people can get around the barriers in place for their protection.

All three women are fantastically convincing in their roles, and have excellent chemistry. The play’s pacing is good for the most part though the morbid conclusion to the tale is perhaps a bit rushed. Some more build up to the girls’ decision would be appreciated though this does also make the ending all the more dramatic in its suddenness.

The set (Bethany Pratt) is very simple. Two tables are moved around the stage for different scenes, in some, they are desks, in another a bed and, in the performance’s final moments, either side of a forest path. Props are also minimal. The cast carry school backpacks from which appear, amongst other things, a laptop, a takeaway container and some scissors.

The lighting (Holly Ellis) is slick and perfectly reflective of the mood on stage. When Soph reads out a terrifying tale, the stage slowly darkens until only she is left in the spotlight. Green hues are also used frequently to give a thoroughly creepy feel to the show. There is potential for certain moments to be creepier – for example, the opening story about a disfigured woman would pack more punch if Parker was to wear a mask – but this had no real impact on the show’s overall affect.

Overall, Something Awful is a fantastic production which is sure to have even the most hardened horror fan on the edge of their seat.

Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli

 

VAULT Festival 2020

 

 

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