Children shine in George Orwell’s Animal Farm at Newham City Farm
15:26 28 August 2014
Animals took over Newham City Farm for a new play based on George Orwell’s classic tale of revolution and betrayal.
Revolution Farm was written by Newham playwright James Kenworth, who sought to re-imagine Orwell’s novel Animal Farm for a young inner-city London audience.
The play was performed at Newham City Farm from Tuesday to Sunday last week, with a cast of school children as the animals who oust Farmer Jones and take over the farm.
Pupils from Gallions Primary School and St Bonaventure’s Primary School had only a week’s rehearsal for the performances at what Mr Kenworth called the “perfect location” to stage the play.
The production, supported by Theatre Royal Stratford East and other local schools, saw Newham City Farm’s new performance barn transformed into the headquarters of the animal revolution.
The play’s use of schoolchildren alongside professional actors was an idea Mr Kenworth tried with his previous play, When Chaplin Met Ghandi, and found the combination worked well.
“I think they’re exceptional,” he said. “It’s a great advertisement for the talent that’s in Newham in the arts.”
Revolution Farm tells the story of farm animals deciding to throw off the yoke of human rule and run the farm in their own interests.
But, as in the Orwell novel, they find their newfound liberty under threat from an elite of farm pigs, who use propaganda and violence to take power and betray the ideals of the revolution.
Mr Kenworth decided to take up the book’s theme about “the powerful and the powerless”, using language and dialect to give the story a London flavour.
“Newham is one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK,” he said. “There are other boroughs where it’s very different.
“The problem with Animal Farm is a lethal combination of complicity and innocence. It’s down to education. I think we are still judged by our accents.”
The production received support from The Royal Docks Community School, Gallions Primary School, Kingsford Community School, the Gainsborough Learning Centre, and local charity Community Links.
It received funding from The Royal Docks Trust and the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and was given the blessing of the Orwell estate.
George Orwell (1905 - 1950) was an English essayist and author, and is best known for the novels Animal Farm and 1984.
Orwell believed in the 1930s and 40s that intellectuals in Britain were fooling themselves and other people, sometimes on purpose, into thinking the Soviet Union was a good political system. He wrote Animal Farm as a children’s fable to warn people against this illusion, and to alert them to the danger of revolutions being stolen and replaced by dictatorship.
The book has given us many well-known phrases, including the amended rule of the farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”