Middle School’s production of Animal Farm ran between Wednesday 1–Friday 3 December, and explored the complicated ideas of power, corruption and inequality. While I initially thought that Orwell’s commentary on the Russian Revolution would be too politically charged for Year 9s and 10s, I immediately found myself transfixed in the story that the cast were telling. It was clear that they understood the story in depth; each cast member had unique characterisation that they brought to their roles, and it was a delight to watch them come to life on stage.
You could tell that each and every cast member was having the best time performing this piece. Not only in the upbeat barn-dance numbers, but also in the hyper-stylised moments like the ribbon sequence, Snowball’s banishment scene with the water trough and the iconic moment where the pigs emerge in their steampunk costumes. Everyone just threw themselves in – each scene was approached with enthusiasm and passion, not only by the cast but also by the backstage crew. The creative choices made for lighting, sound, set and costume came together to create an immersive rollercoaster of a show.
And the accents! The accent work in this production is something to awe at – there were many diverse accents heard on stage, ranging from West Country to thick Russian, and even to southern parts of the USA. Each one unique, and each one absolutely on point.
To put it simply, Animal Farm was an absolute treat to watch. St Helen’s is known for its skilfully crafted productions, but this one took the cake for me. The amount of talent that’s present in this production is overwhelming – if any of the actors or backstage crew go on to do drama professionally in the future, they will go far. These guys are ones to watch – you don’t see productions like this often.
By Hannah, U6G
Performing in Animal Farm has been a whirlwind experience which I have really enjoyed! Starting in September, we began rehearsals for our Middle School production, beginning with some background character work to understand out how a cow, pig or horse would feel in the imaginary world of the play. Once we felt like we really knew our character, we started blocking all our scenes, which was a particular challenge, as we needed to make sure we were making our piece interesting for the in-the-round Studio Theatre. By doing this we learnt how to act to the audience, even if it didn’t always feel natural. We also had to learn how to use different props and scenery such as a trough, a cattle prod, and a windmill which transformed the Studio Theatre into Manor Farm.
As we got closer to the performance, we gradually started collecting pieces of clothing for our costumes. I found that as soon as we started to rehearse in costume the world of Animal Farm came to life. It really helped build on our character development to see the visual representation of the different animals’ social status. Mrs Sharman’s amazing script really helped make the production the best it could possibly be. She tailored the script all throughout the rehearsal process to allow each and every one of us to perform to the best of our abilities. Of course, like everything in the past few years our rehearsals were affected by people being absent, but we managed to keep going in rehearsals, always with Mrs Sharman giving us new ideas for how to play our characters and work together as a cast. In the end the whole company of Animal Farm persevered and I am proud to say we have created something very exciting. I hope that lots of people will enjoy it.
By Sophia H, 9M