October 30 - November 16, 2003
Thursday - Sunday 8:00pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
The First Floor Theatre

directed, written and scored by Rolando Macrini
masks by Francesco Cerra
props by Ilaria Passeri
costumes by Patrizia Conti
production manager Aldo Milea
featuring Ciccio Rasiti, Paco Milea, Margherita Vestri, Stas Badadin, Silvia Giorni, Marco Marsili, Olimpia Ariani and Ilaria Passeri

FARMANIMALFARM, directed, written and scored by Rolando Macrini of Viterbo, Italy, is a contemporary adaptation of George Orwell’s political satire, "AnimalFarm." It premiered August 8, 2003 in celebration of the centennial of Orwell’s birth at Civita di Bagnoregio at the CivitArte Festival. This production is by The University Theatre Center "La Torre" of the Tuscia University in Viterbo, Italy, in collaboration with the Teatro Eliocentrico (Heliocentric Theater).

In Orwell's story, a group of barn animals overthrow their human masters and set up an egalitarian society of their own. Eventually the animals' intelligent and power-loving leaders, the pigs, sabotage the revolution and form a dictatorship whose bondage is even more oppressive than that of their former human masters. The pigs, along with their ruthless leader, Napoleon, thus become the ruling class and the decision makers of the farm. It is a story of a revolution betrayed by its own leaders.

Director Rolando Macrini has created a new sound language that reveals the intimate identity of the animals, a sort of ESP for horses, chickens, sheep, donkeys and pigs. There is also, in his words, an "intense conception of space and rhythm" that simulates the fields, farm, and the windmill. The result is a tribute to the author's genius and a bold experiment in translating prose into a theatrical form of art. The play utilizes "words in verses, verses that become words, sounds," according to Macrini.

The play also speaks through the dramatic movements of the actors' bodies and limbs. The visual concept is particularly striking: orthopedic props and equipment such as crutches, aluminum walkers, support corsets and collars, transform the stage into a geriatric hospital ward, an example of the life conditions in which animals are kept for domestic exploitation and for the slaughterhouse. The visual impact is shocking and prompts reflection on the exploitation and torment of the animal world by cruel humans. The ending place of "Farmanimalfarm" and Orwell's masterpiece are the same: the emptiness and delusion of power, of revolution, and of ideologies.

NY Theatre Wire Review
by Clarissa Laurens
November 9, 2003

"FarmanimalFarm" is not exactly the kind of show which makes its audience well-at-ease. That is certainly a sign that director and writer Rolando Macrini reached his goal, which is a meaningful adaptation of George Orwell's "AnimalFarm" on stage.

A show based on a novel whose point is to depict a fictive totalitarian system is obviously not joyful and entertaining. Moreover, while the novel allows the reader to take a kind of analytical distance by embodying a human community in a group of barn animals, the inverted vision of human beings acting as animals on stage is both striking and troubling. It indeed highlights the very primitive dimension lying in human fights for political leadership, as well as the animal survival instinct pushing individuals into submission. Do not expect, therefore, to exit the performance in a state of optimistic excitement, but rather with a great will for reflection.

The production by The University Theatre Center " La Torre" of the Tuscia University in Viterbo (Italy)-- in collaboration with the Teatro Eliocentrico --comes as a celebration of the centennial of George Orwell's birth and has its American premiere until November 16 at La MaMa E.T.C. Its distinctive feature lies in the use of an animal-like language comprised of non-articulate sounds, which is at first destabilizing but interestingly enough focuses the attention on the actors' corporal expression. The exercise is demanding for the performers and for the audience since the show does not adhere to regular theatrical standards. In short, this is experimental theater requiring an open-minded reception.

"FarmanimalFarm" tells the story of an animal community enduring the dictatorship of one of its members after deposing a former human tyrant and trying to set up an egalitarian society. The show displays each step of the totalitarian process, from the euphoric revolution to the increasing repression. Not to mention the setting of a new work organization with the complicity of a friendly visitor coming to buy goods and pretending to ignore the awful life conditions within the farm.

Both music and props create an oppressive atmosphere, so that you feel as stuck as the enslaved animals on stage. At the beginning of the show the actors put on white masks (designed by Francesco Cerra) evocative of animal skeletons, and grasp medical equipment such as crutches and aluminum walkers to represent various animal species. The whole stage is filled with physical diseases--the supposed reflection of a political disorder--and appears as a huge hospital room.

The musical background changes in accordance with the scenes, helping in the comprehension of this non-speaking play. At the end of the performance, the actors eventually take off their masks and scrutinize the audience with a newly recovered human appearance, probably to remind them of their own underlying primitive instincts.

In the middle of the performance, the members of the ensemble (including Ciccio Rasiti, Paco Milea, Margherita Vestri, Stas Baladin, Silvia Giorno, Marco Marsili, Olimpia Ariani and Ilaria Passeri) stopped acting for a few seconds, seemingly to congratulate each other. I may have gotten this moment wrong. If it was a moment of mutual reassurance, it is not a common practice. I imagined that the actors needed encouragement to go on, since it is a challenge to imitate animal behavior for more than an hour and a half.

The audience would perhaps need an encouragement too, since attending "FarmanimalFarm" is challenging for the brain. As long as you keep in mind that you will not attend a delighting show but rather a challenging one, it is worth taking a walk to La MaMa until November 16.

2003 page