George Orwell‘s Animal Farm book published in 17 August 1945 (minus 2 years and plus 2 days from Indian Independence) is a classic. I read the book for the first time only two years back, initially the Tamil translation. The story is about how a set of animals living in a farm in rural England takeover the place from their human master. Initially the revolution is lead together by a group of pigs for common good and sharing. Slowly one of them (named Napoleon) starts to sideline the other leader pigs towards consolidating his power. At the end of the story, Napoleon pig becomes a brutal dictator with the animals wondering is there any difference between their erstwhile human master and Napoleon now!. The story was supposed to be inspired by events in then Soviet Union and Stalin’s corruption of communist’ ideals. George Orwell brilliantly showcases in the story on how political revolutions, even those started on the noblest of ideas tend to go wrong over a period of time due to individuals hunger for power. In other words, this story is a great example for the famous quote by Lord Acton “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely“.
Today, The Madras Players in association with Stray Factory, another theatre group staged Animal Farm at the Chennai Egmore Museum Theatre. As a fan of George Orwell, I didn’t miss the chance, I saw the play with my wife and kid. We thoroughly enjoyed the play.
The play was directed by Mathivanan Rajendran who has done full justice to the book by Orwell, by eliminating few details to fit it to 100 minutes story telling, but without sacrificing the spirit and the core plot. The background music which was performed on stage (behind the actors who were in front), by Shanoo Murali, Roshan Mark and Sathya Sharath was well done and created the necessary ambience. All the actors did their roles well (full list in the handout), especially Napoleon by Sun TV fame Rishi Raj and Snow Ball by Naveen George Thomas. Prashanth Oliver who portrayed Boxer (the horse) was superb in the scene when he was pulling hard the windmill. I liked Kavya Srinivasan’s performance as the Mollie (horse) character, whose desire for colour ribbons was cutely enacted by Kavya.
The first time I had gone to Egmore Museum Theatre was for US Consulate’s “Make Chai Not War” standup comedy show two years back. Egmore Museum Theatre is a historic building structured in the Italianate style, was constructed by the British in the late 19th century. The theatre has its walls and pillars adorned with floral and geometrical motifs. In its hey days, the hall was frequented by British elites and can seat over 600 in a semi-circular fashion with the stage in lower level centre. Now under Tamil Nadu State Government’s maintenance, you need to only imagine its glory, but I won’t term it as bad maintenance either.