“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Such is the satiric lesson of Animal Farm, George Orwell’s cautionary parable about the uses and abuses of power.
In March, New York’s acclaimed Synapse Productions will treat St. Louis audiences to Animal Farm: The Puppet Musical. This witty and visually stunning production — based on the landmark musical adaptation by famed British director Peter Hall — re-imagines Orwell’s novel with all the wonder and grotesquerie of a childhood fairy tale.
Performances — part of the Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series at Washington University — begin at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 10 and 11. Tickets are $28; $24 for seniors and Washington University faculty and staff; and $18 for students and children under 12.
Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. Tickets are available at the Edison Theatre Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. For more information, call (314) 935-6543.
Published in 1945, Animal Farm is a thinly disguised allegory of Soviet communism. The story follows a group of oppressed barnyard animals who stage a rebellion against their cruel and neglectful master, Farmer Jones. At first, things go well: led by Snowball, an intelligent and idealistic pig, the animals establish a utopian, socialist-style regime based on self-governance and “animal pride,” equally sharing food and work.
Yet before long, the pigs grow arrogant with power and begin changing the rules to favor themselves. Snowball is ousted and two other pigs — Napoleon and Squealer — install themselves as dictators, backed by a “secret police” of dogs. Soon the other animals are near starvation and fearing for their lives, no better off than they were under humans.
Inspired by the simple motifs and primary colors of a children’s book, Animal Farm: The Puppet Musical combines Orwell’s satire with elements of vaudeville and children’s musical theatre to create a unique, family-friendly experience that both stimulates and entertains.
Designers Emily DeCola and Eric Wright enlist an astonishing array of puppetry forms, from hand- and shadow-puppets to stick-and-rod, Japanese bunraku, masks and full-body costumes. As a result, the nine-member cast imbues their animal characters — pigs, hens and horses; packs of dogs and herds of sheep — with impressive nuance and clarity.
“With delightful life-sized puppets and songs ranging from anthems to music hall ditties, there’s not a weak link in the entire barn,” declared The New York Times. “It is fun for the whole family.”
Synapse Productions is a non-profit theatre company dedicated to the idea that theater, with its inherent immediacy and community, can be a prime forum for spiritual and intellectual inquiry. Since debuting at the 1996 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the company has earned an international reputation for presenting provocative and challenging works that address the most pressing issues of our time
Synapse debuted Animal Farm: The Puppet Musical in 2004 as part of The Orwell Project, a multi-disciplinary arts and education event that also included a new production of 1984 as well as related classes, conferences and workshops.
Edison Theatre’s OVATIONS! Series serves both Washington University and the St. Louis community by providing the highest caliber national and international artists in music, dance and theater, performing new works as well as innovative interpretations of classical material not otherwise seen in St. Louis. Focusing on presentations that are interdisciplinary, multicultural and/or experimental, Edison Theatre presents work intended to challenge, educate and inspire.
Edison Theatre programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; and the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis.
WHO: Synapse Productions
WHAT: Animal Farm: The Puppet Musical
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, and Saturday, March 10 and 11
WHERE: Edison Theatre, Washington University, Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
TICKETS: $28; $24 for seniors and WUSTL faculty and staff; $18 for students and children. Available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.
SPONSOR: Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series