Harrogate Theatre - 6:12 shine in dazzling version of Orwell's classic fable

6:12's Michael Garside and Judith Kenley in Animal Farm.
6:12's Michael Garside and Judith Kenley in Animal Farm.

Review: Harrogate Theatre - 6:12 presents George Orwell's Animal Farm

A bewildering, constant leapfrogging between different animal characters with different physical mannerisms and different voices - Harrogate's smallest but most cutting edge theatre company never make it easy for themselves.
The two-person team of actor-director Michael Garside and Judith Kenley work their socks off bringing George Orwell's classic political parable set in a farmyard to life.
First published in novel form in 1945, Animal Farm may be a satire but 6:12 are a company which always has a serious purpose and always aims high.
The signs are good on arriving inside Harrogate Theatre's upstairs studio.
With the barest of props - some bales of hay, a few farming implements, a sack of potatoes, a film screen and an enveloping seating plan, the small stage team manage to create atmosphere from the start.
Learning the lines for so many roles must have been a challenge for Michael and Judi.
But they throw themsleves into with immense energy and humour, bounding around the small stage area in the role of Napoleon one minute, Snowball the next, playing Boxer and Clover, the Old Major and Mr Jones, Squealer and Muriel, not to forget a whole range of dogs and pigs and sheep and hens and birds.
Based on award-winning Guy Masterson's solo update of what was designed to be an allegory of Soviet communism and Stalinist dictatorship in the 1940s disguised as a children's story, 6:12 put on a wonderfully enjoyable and inventive show.
It's possible to argue the insertion of modern references - bits of Blair and modern capitalism and the Iraq War - undermine the purity of Orwell's original story a bit, though it does help change it from a historical piece to something more relevant for a modern audience.
The one thing it doesn't stop 6:12's Animal Farm from being is hugely entertaining - and enjoying a sold-out success on its opening night.
All shows are equally good. But some shows are more equally good than others.

Animal Farm runs at Harrogate Theatre until Saturday, October 22 at 8pm each evening.