Edinburgh Fringe 2014
A little bit of classic history and literature, a lot of modern flair. That’s the best way to describe Guy Masterson’s adaptation of Animal Farm, which was performed with finesse by the Tumanishvili Film Actors Theatre, appearing in Edinburgh all the way from Georgia.
In fact, the production was performed in their native Georgian with English subtitles, in order to underscore the impact of the former Soviet Union on Eastern European nations like Georgia. The story closely follows George Orwell’s original tale of farm animals revolting against their abusive human master in favor of an egalitarian philosophy. Masterson and the ensemble chose a particularly physical approach, with each actor taking on exaggerated animalistic characteristics and extensive dance sequences.
Masterson’s direction is lively, allowing a high-energy ensemble to dazzle with passion and exuberance. The talented cast lived up to the ensemble nature of the story, working together seamlessly in the complex blocking formations and intricate movements. Some standouts were evident, but for the most part, Animal Farm felt like watching a large machine at work. Rather than notice the individual cogs whir and sputter, it was more fun to watch the beauty of the whole unfold.
The play was well presented for an English-speaking audience, but despite the strong acting, mismatched subtitling distracted from the performance. The adaptation would also be stronger if the show was a bit shorter, with some scenes feeling overwrought.
The story is fresh and unique with the Georgian twist, and feels especially timely given the tense state of affairs in Russia and Ukraine today. Part of the twisted philosophy in Animal Farm states that, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." In the eclectic world of the Fringe, all shows are interesting, but some are definitely more interesting than others. Because of deeply compelling acting and choreography, put Guy Masterson’s adaptation in the latter category.