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Some animals are more equal than others – ‘Animal Farm’

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Some animals are more equal than others – ‘Animal Farm’ (photo courtesy UMaine School of Performing Arts)

ORONO – A classic allegory is coming to animalistic life at UMaine.

The University of Maine School of Performing Arts (SPA) is presenting Orwell’s “Animal Farm” inside the intimate Al Cyrus Pavilion Theatre on the Orono campus. The show, directed by Alan Liam Estes, runs through Oct. 28.

The SPA held auditions early September and began practice mid-September, leaving the students with a little over month to prepare.

Freshman Ethan Rhoad, who played Napoleon, remarked that “there was a fast turnaround. We had to get to know each other really quickly.”

Despite the time constraints that they faced, the players put on an impressive performance; with standout performances by Emilia Byrne as the hogwild Squealer, Keely Gonyea as the shy and compassionate Clover and Ethan Rhoad as a powerful Napoleon.

The sound effects were absolutely spot on. The timing and tone of the effects were orchestrated perfectly throughout the play - the loud percussion bounced around the pavilion and straight into your bones during “The Battle of the Cowshed” and menacing strings and horns accompanied Napoleon during his grandiose speeches.

In addition to the wonderful artificial sound, the natural acoustics of the Pavillion Theatre add a unique feeling that creates a layer of intimacy in any play - something you just can't get at a larger venue. This fact becomes abundantly clear the moment the distraught animals wildly slam the floor with a fury that would make any Bolshevik proud as Boxer, played by Peter Natali, incites revolution in them. You can feel each and every slam hit you in the chest like the bassline at a EDM concert.

Perhaps my favorite moments of the play were the two battle scenes. The battles were intense, yet the overall feeling was comedic (which doubtless was the intention of the director). The slow-motion fighting and deaths did well to change up the pace and to keep the audience engaged.

The players bounced in and out and up and down the small hay-filled set with elasticity for approximately one hour straight - there were no significant breaks from start to finish. The hay-covered students linked hands and took their bows to a healthy applause from the crowd. If they get nothing else from the performance, they got one hell of a workout.

The show’s director, theatre student Alan Liam Estes, spoke to The Maine Edge after the performance and explained his most rewarding moment.

“A man from Iraq came up after the show to tell me that in Iraq there is the same situation as in Animal Farm. He said he enjoyed the show and that he would be coming to see it again. That makes it all worth it.”

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