Welcome to the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bermuda

Bermuda Sun... Beyond the Headlines

Review / Animal Farm, City Hall Theatre
A wild and wicked portrayal

Sarah Lagan

Friday, March 25, 2011


Sinister: From left, Animal Farm actors Kalin Williams, Gary Skelton, Rowan Vickers and Michael Cabot. *Photo supplied

Director Matt McGowan and his cast and crew made animal magic on stage at City Hall.

They vividly brought to life George Orwell’s timeless classic Animal Farm, mocking Stalin’s Russia and other such despotic regimes.

The story is about a cruel farmer who is overthrown by his own farm animals. They aspire to work together towards improving their standard of living but some become as powerful and corrupt as the humans they sought to overthrow.

Pigs call the shots and the actors who played them were excellent; their animal mannerisms were believable and the costumes simple but effective.

Gary Skelton made his debut on Bermuda’s stage as head pig Napoleon and took full command of the role. Seething and snarling as the sinister dictator, he managed to make you sick to the stomach while also injecting some welcome humour to an otherwise grim setting.

“I’m a practical pig, a pig of few words,” he says in a gritty northern English accent.

Anyone new to the story was soon to learn the extent of the damage these “few words” could do.

Mr. Skelton, by day a photo editor at the Bermuda Sun, has plenty of stage experience, having toured the U.K. and Europe. And it showed; no doubt we will be seeing much more of him in future shows.

Though we gain Mr. Skelton, we lose young Rowan Vickers, who was terrific as Napoleon’s sidekick Squealer.

This marks his last performance in Bermuda before he leaves to study at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York.

His role as Squealer is demanding as, unlike Napoleon, he needs to be liked. It is his job to win support of the farm animals for Napoleon’s evil schemes and he does so by pulling the wool over their eyes (pun intended).

There was electricity on stage between Snowball — played brilliantly by Jenny Burrell (Missing Celia Rose) — and Napoleon.

Mike Jones (History Boys) played the role of Old Major. It’s the kind of character he seems to have attracted since he started acting — commanding, intelligent and loveable.

Emma Keane (The History Boys) played the show horse Mollie so sweetly and managed to sustain her animal mannerisms effectively with a brush of a hoof here, a sideward sweep of the head there.

Barb Outerbridge and Mandy Roberts-Smith have to be commended for the costumes. They avoided the obvious coconut shells for hooves and big furry all-in-one suits, instead keeping things subtle and symbolic.

The sheep dressed in dirty Aran jumpers, the crows wore slightly feathered wigs and best of all, the pigs sported leather snouts with their fingers bound in dirty Band Aids to represent trotters.

The idea to put gas masks with pinscher ears on the guard dogs was ingenious. I understand there were more than a few questions at Customs when these “miscellaneous” items were presented.

I had heard beforehand that songs had been integrated into the play and this made me sceptical. Turning such a timeless classic into a musical would not be to my personal taste, but the production didn’t go as far as that. There were too many songs in the first part of the play but on the whole, they were short and sweet and helped the plot along.

Related Stories:
• Animal Farm characters take a walk on the wild side
• Actor bows out of Bda with Animal Farm

Related Links:

You can now assist the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bermuda by making a donation with our secure credit card payment option.