Friday, April 30, 2010


Another valiant effort by W!ldRice, though less deserving of a standing ovation on all twos (or fours) than the previous season. I had a few words with Animal Farm's Director, Ivan Heng, before the show and told him I'd caught the previous run and thoroughly enjoyed it. He interjected that this time around, there had been "some updates". I wonder if he'd said that to lower my expectations or if that was an apology in disguise.

The set was simple and static, resembling a barn with zinc sheets as walls. In the centre, a few rows of steps rise up to meet the back wall, on which the seven commandments were scribbled. Animal Farm by W!ldRice is possibly the most physical piece of local theatre you'll ever see. The arched feet, the bent knees and backs, the stiff fingers that resembled pig trotters, head and body jerks reminiscent of fowl behaviour, the shrieks, neighing, barks and clucking. For the cast, this was one place they could behave like animals and get away with it. In fact, animal behaviour is imperative!

Yeo Yann Yann (of 881 and Singapore Dreaming fame) deserves special mention for how hard she worked herself playing Clover the horse. Gani Abdul Karim who played Boxer was convincing as the tireless and diligent workhorse, but the way Yann Yann trotted around the stage the whole show through and kept in character and stance is praiseworthy. I can't remember a time she wasn't on stage. Someone, anyone...please put a trough on stage for her to hydrate herself. Pam Oei was the convincingly conniving righthand pig Squealer, whose squeals made the audience squeal with adoration, but it was Denise Tan who pulled in the most laughs as Mollie the mare who believed in sugar candy mountain - a place animals go to when they die. Her Filipino-accented portrayal of Moses the raven also lent much comedy to the show. Lim Yu Beng was so-so as the kingpig, I mean 'kingpin'. He lacked the evil streak (why am I thinking of streaky bacon all of a sudden?!) and presence that Napoleon ought to have had. He just was so much more masterful as Boxer in the previous season.

There were a few slapstick moments that didn't jive. The odd song that sprinkled the show, including 'Tonight's Gonna be a Good Night' didn't go down well. The attempt to make the show palatable for the younger crowd didn't work for me. I hope George Orwell didn't turn in his grave. Another flaw was how inconsistent the accents were. Some dialogues were in standard English while others were laced with ethnic accents.

The show had elements of Stomp (when Jenson Koh the 8th member of the cast came out from behind his drum set and started banging on the stage floor and zinc sheets) and Mummenschanz (the use of aluminium tubing coils) and even a fleeting moment of Les Miserables.

Should you catch the show?

Yes, if....
- you've never caught the previous seasons
- you appreciate the hard work that goes into good physical theatre
- you love watching animal behaviour in humans
- you want to see how closely it sticks to your Literature text
- you want to see how text is adapted for theatre

ANIMAL FARM is now on at the Drama Centre at the National Library Building. Now on till 8th May 2010! Tickets still selling at SISTIC.

No comments: