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Sunday, August 17, 2014


(Mandisa Nduna & Mpume Mthombeni as Squealer & Napoleon)

An exciting, educational and splendid theatrical experience. (Review by Caroline Smart)
Hundreds of KZN learners will have had the singular pleasure of gaining a stronger understanding of their set work, Animal Farm, through Nobulali Productions’ presentation of Neil Coppen’s stage adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novel.
Recently presented in association with The Playhouse Company and performed in the Playhouse Drama, this production draws on everything my favourite venue has to offer. Animal Farm is adapted and directed by Neil Coppen who further justifies his numerous awards, including a Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Drama, and his position as one of South Africa’s most exciting current creators of theatre that resonate in a South African context.
He has cleverly adapted Orwell’s story to the point where it can be played by five versatile actors. He has the advantage of an excellent cast headed by Durban’s Mpume Mthombeni and includes Khutjo Bakunzi-Green; Zesuliwe Hadebe; MoMo Matsunyane, and Mandisa Nduna (formerly from Durban).
Added to this is stunning lighting by Tina le Roux, and effective choreography by Daniel Buckland. There are some splendid sound effects and music designed by Tristan Horton and mixed by Gil Hochman as well as impressive shadow puppetry from Thando Lobese. By not using the full width of the Drama, Coppen has kept the action tight.
Orwell maintained that Animal Farm depicted the stirrings that led up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and further to the Stalin era. A democratic socialist, he reflects the Soviet Union as a brutal dictatorship in his story. This is set on a farm where the animals eventually revolt against the humans and achieve what they believe is freedom. However, before long, the pigs assert their authority, with much goose-stepping, and eventually over-ride the hard-won democratic victory.
The precious Seven Commandments of Animalism are headed by ”All Animals Are Equal” which before long becomes replaced by “All Animals Are Equal but Some are More Equal than Others.” All too predictably, one pig (Napoleon) eventually asserts dictatorial authority and the wider community of the farm wonder whether they are really better off than they were before. Coppen has firmly placed his Animal Farm in a South African context which heightens its message ... there’s even the odd jibe at Nkandla.
There is much humour as the audience is drawn into the play. Zesuliwe Hadebe (a delightful Chicken) and MoMo Matsunyane (the much-maligned Snowball) double as narrators as they skilfully ease the story on its way. Mpume Mthombeni is impressive as the dictatorial Napoleon who gets fatter and more medalled as time goes by. Mandisa Nduna as Squealer gives a fine performance as Napoleon’s spin doctor while Khutjo Bakunzi-Green pulls our heartstrings as the hard-working and blindingly loyal Boxer. The pig grunts and other animal noises are accurate and add amusement and credibility to the dialogue.
Nobulali Productions is to be congratulated on their aim to make Shakespeare and other set works easy to understand. Learners aside, anyone who sees this Animal Farm will have benefited from an exciting, educational and splendid theatrical experience. – Caroline Smart
At the end of the final performance, it was announced that the production will be revived next year. For more information visit