-The concept of ‘secret santa’ seems to have been lost
-Kim wrapped her present in tin foil
-We all got nice things
-Oh this is really cute
-Last committee of 2016
ANIMAL FARMFEEDBACK, compiled by Samena Brunning and Rachel Harden Kids, sit down and buckle up as I tell you all about the amazing show that was Animal Farm and TG’s freshers show 2016. Personally, my only feedback is that I’m glad no one was wearing a year 6 nativity sheep costume in the form of a black t shirt with cotton wool stuck on, but I digress - Samena
JV was highly praised for his direction and clear vision. One cast member said ‘The team had evidently put a lot of thought into what they wanted the outcome to look and feel like. For an amateur production it was lovely and professional, they made it a welcoming environment for all the freshers and made the experience a fantastic one’. JV and Charlie had a lot of love for each other (what’s new) and it was noted they worked well together. JV praised both his ADs saying ‘Charlie was a rock…I wouldn’t have anyone else as my right hand man. Ilsa gave excellent notes and was always great when called upon. Both were crucial to making the show what it became’. Flora was praised multiple times for being absolutely amazing and ‘sick at fights’.
One cast member said ‘Just dance was a hilarious punishment for being absent but I also really enjoyed the dancing’. There we have it folks, written down, just dance is here to stay.
Character workshops were singled out by more than one cast member as being incredibly useful and coherent, couldn’t have hurt to have more!
The phrase ‘clear vision’ was used about 10 billion times. We can confirm visions are always best clear.
‘I really liked the contrast of comedy and drama in this show’
General rehearsal productivity was picked up on by all members of the cast that gave feedback. A majority mentioned they felt that notes went on too long, causing rehearsals to run late. Some chalked long rehearsals as due to playing games for too long. Many appreciated that the cast could be unruly and this made giving notes difficult.
Suggestions to solve these issues ranged from spending less time on warmups, taking shorter lunch breaks and collating feedback before delivering it to the cast. Many felt the majority of notes were only for the leads so ensemble members were kept behind only to have nothing said to them.
JV was criticised for occasionally being a bit ‘stubborn’ and this meant there was little input for the ADs. It was mentioned by one that ‘perhaps the role of AD/AP would have been more effective if their roles had been clearly laid out at the beginning as they felt their input and ideas in rehearsal were required’ [sic]?
One cast member felt some scenes were a bit static (ensemble members could have been working in the background? Or not set in a rigid semicircle, inhibited natural movement). The final scene with the dinner jacketed pigs might have been a bit much.
‘The direction was perfect…clever humour didn’t detract from overall themes but provided comic relief’
‘Direction was really strong for this play, worked really well and flowed nicely’
‘JV clearly has strong directorial views and knows how to bring it out. Style was consistent and key themes were clear’
Good camaraderie among the cast, especially the boys, nice to see.
One audience member picked up that they weren’t sure what point the production was trying to make, or what message it wanted to impart to the audience. ‘As a show (not necessarily this production) it felt a bit stuck in its time, and a bit toothless’. Also wasn’t keen on the playing down of animal traits, felt physical traits needed bringing out more. Storytellers also seemed a bit superfluous, one would have been better perhaps? (For more details I’ve put the paragraph written at the bottom, as I do biomed and honestly don’t understand some of the words used.)
Costume was very highly praised and Ilsa along with it for organising. ‘Ilsa did an ace job sourcing costumes and was super on-it’.
‘The producer and asst. producer got things done without ever getting stressed or annoyed at us… and helped put on a brilliant show’
Paige was very highly praised by all. ‘Paige in incredible. If a problem happens, Paige will solve it’.
‘PAIGE IS A GODDESS’
‘Anand was great with the freshers and backstage and nailed the straw bales’
‘Paige is a beast, Anand is a laugh’
The word logistical nightmare was batted around. Flyers being late were picked up on by all of the cast/crew that gave feedback. This in turn impacted the flyering rota which was unorganized. One was disappointed about programmes and felt more could have been done to publicise the show.
It was noted that communication between production and direction could have been clearer as there was ‘mixed signals as to what was being dealt with and what hadn’t’. ‘Everything felt a bit last minute’ and perhaps if it had been organised earlier, the whole debacle with instaprint might not have been so bad. It was suggested that one of the APs was not ‘pro-active’ and this was what put production behind schedule. ‘Paige effectively did it all herself’.
Okay, one cast member was not a happy bunny:
‘My experience of the production was that it was very poorly done. Publicity was left to the last minute, stuff wasn’t ordered when it should have been, the costumes looked pretty poor and the set was non-existent. I wasn’t a huge fan of the design either, however that’s just personal opinion. The trailer was very poor quality and just felt a bit embarrassing to share around on Facebook. I was also made aware by others that some of the headshots we used had been stolen from the Showstoppers website, which is really not okay and I was quite upset to find out about. It’s a shame, as the show was very good and I feel that this was the only thing that let it down’.
They all liked it, lot of love for the costumes. They liked that they weren’t dressed in shitty animal costumes or too done up with makeup and the idea that they would play up physical animal traits was described as quite artistic and stopped the multi-rolling from becoming a distraction. Praise for ‘minimalistic staging’ as well as it drew attention to important props- blackboard.
Publicity was picked up on again, suggested that committee should have imposed a deadline for ordering stuff?
Cast and crew got on very well and all praised each other’s hard work and dedication.
JV said ‘This year's crop of freshers are outstanding and I loved every second of working with them. They worked so hard and showed sparks of absolute theatrical brilliance. Blew us away at auditions, and did so even more as the process went on. I feel like a proud mum.’
SO MUCH LOVE FOR THE CAST FROM ALL THE CREW.
‘JG IS A BIT OF A FUCKING HERO ISN'T HE. WHAT A GEM. His commitment and dedication were a joy to behold. Sorry but he is amazing. Jack, Mark, Natalia, Kamara, Darius, Alex were also massive standouts. Hats off to all the cast though.’
‘Absolutely LOVED the cast - prod team did well in getting everybody to bond from the offset. Each actor extremely well-suited to their character’.
‘A really nice connection was formed between everyone in the production, even if a lot of it only came about during intensive week.’
‘The loveliest cast there ever was. Very supportive both in rehearsals and on the nights.’
It was commented that bad habits were allowed to form amongst the cast, mainly being late and talking too much. This affected the productivity of rehearsals and led to some agitation amongst members of the cast who were on time. This was picked up in nearly everyone’s feedback.
‘It's a shame we couldn't have had more socials, but then the number of hours a week in rehearsal made it unfair to expect people to dedicate any more time to the production. People were allowed to arrive late and miss rehearsals for too long before it was raised as a serious issue. I think in future a production should make it clear from very early on how much of a nuisance this is, so that people don't get into bad habits. Background noises (such as agreement and animal noises) and commotion, from the ensemble in particular, should have been encouraged more. Perhaps some soundscape or yelling exercises would've helped people to loosen up and be more willing to make sound during the scenes. Also forcing each person to think of, say 3, different animalistic ticks which they could use at any point would've helped.’
‘Only criticism is that a few cast members weren't the best team players when it came to getting to rehearsal on time - left a lot of us waiting when we really just wanted to crack on.’
Also picked up that socials should have been more of a thing: ‘although the cast sort of did bond, I didn't feel at all integrated with the rest of the society...it felt very us and them which was a shame. I would have also liked to have met more of the Showstoppers lot, as from what I understand we are very closely linked yet I still don’t really know anyone from them.’
The cast were all called a mixture of compliments, ranging from amazing to talented to sexy.
Kamara, Darius, JG, Mark, Jack, Natalia and James Adams all got mentioned as being brilliant. Ian got a glowing review saying he ‘really shone in what could have easily been a forgettable role as noted by many people in conversation afterwards’.
‘Excellent casting, especially the pigs and Clover.’
As I've said before, Ian is who stood out for me and the one I can really remember a week later. Alex and JG were also masterful pieces of casting. It feels unfair to single people out. There was a lot of energy, potential and talent in the cast which is very exciting to see.
Maybe needed stronger female characters?
‘With the exception of Natalia however I feel like girls didn't have as much to do and even having met most of them now, I am struggling to distinguish between them without looking the cast list up which is a shame because I remember thinking that there was a lot of talent and energy in that pool. I hope that we have done enough to retain the cast as members. I wish there was more we could do to keep hold of those who were good in auditions but couldn't be found a part in the show, which is a perennial problem for TG unfortunately.’
Some say that the “venue was great” “not too big/small”, whereas others have said “the annex is a nice space to work in, but there was absolutely no room to spare during the fight scenes, especially when people were carried off stage”
“final look was fantastic – nice and minimal evidently much thought had gone in to working with the space we had and making it look interesting”
“the minimalistic set worked well with the themes of poverty and also with the costume”
“Hay bales were fun and atmospheric”
“Commandments also looked cool (when they were there lol)”
“Overall liked that too much wasn’t crammed in”
LIGHT AND SOUND
Light and Sound = “simple which made sense in terms of the play”
“really enjoyed the lighting for the battle of the Cowshed and the Revolution”
-Lots of praise and thankfulness for Robbie’s music – “gave it that extra edge”
-Windmill would have looked better if it was up against something flat, as it didn’t look right up against the curtain
-James Chambers said that “the windmill was really cool”
-JG: “What can I say, except 'stage soc are gods!'”
-“STRAW BALES WERE GENIUS (LOL)”
-“Whilst the Straw looked super awesome, maybe never again, I feel we will keep finding it around the annex till this time next (year?)”
LIGHT AND SOUND
-“Tech was smooth and effective however it took along time to get there. Even after the long tech-run there were still a lot of mistakes in the dress run - i'm not sure why that was.”
-“Oh stagesoc I luv u George and Joe were so great and gave us sick things even when they were slightly higher tech.”
-JV = “StageSoc are gods. George is a bloody fantastic TD and was such a hero to work with. Both George and Joe were so supportive of the vision and helping piece it together. When everything was tight, it looked and sounded awesome.”
-“Windmill looked cool.”
Emma Frazzita: “The glorious Annex was glorious as usual”
“Loved the hay bales and the blackboard, a great use of the low-tech slot”
LIGHT AND SOUND
Emma Frazzita: “the lighting worked well”
“lighting was great and atmospheric. I feel that the sound effects could have been more polished, especially the music used in scene transitions, which seemed to start and stop very abruptly”
It was noticed that the lights sometimes came up before the actors were ready
“The lights for the battle scenes worked very well.”
“Loved the windmill”
“Really enjoyed the projection of the windmill, a great touch that added a lot of atmosphere.”
Some considered the cues to be “unnecessary and clunky” and that they caused the pace to “slow down” and didn’t allow momentum to build as much as they could have
“actors were often just standing waiting for the lights to come up to say one or two lines”
A fab performance. ‘Overall really good experience and the show went well. We have a cool group of freshers and we should be proud.’
‘The play was very enjoyable to work on. The script was not divided into scenes, which meant that it could get confusing at times when trying to remember the order of events or explain to others the order of events. It was a very good mix of humour and political metaphor, however.’
‘I completely forgot about the show liaisons who were brilliant throughout the show. Approachable and helpful, plus they were great just for a chat or shoulder massage. Very supportive.’
‘Overall the play was perfectly suited to the slot. It was equal parts humorous and serious and was a joy to watch. We are very proud of our freshers as they have done so well. JV should also be praised in his vision, which despite hiccups within the prod team, created a wonderful performance.’
I think it was a nice play for a fresher show because a large ensemble is a necessity, and also because so many people are familiar with animal farm from GCSE.
‘Could not have asked for a better fresher's show to be part of :)’
Script was criticised as being ‘a bit clunky’.’ ‘I think the particular adaptation/script we used is quite weak, with some really nice themes taken out (such as the KGB) and a lot of the narrative condensed and simplified to an almost patronizing level. The good direction made up for this, especially by making some weak parts of the script appear intentionally comedic.’
‘Not sure that the script adaptation was the best - constant information/action and not much devoted to the build up of emotion. Quite difficult to stage too, as many scenes are just all the animals listening to one person talking. Liked the interpretation of the storytellers though, in giving them identities, rather than just leaving them as unspecified entities, narrating some action.’
I was very impressed and appreciated it was a well done piece of theatre, but something about it left me underwhelmed - maybe just the show itself doesn't feel particularly relevant. JV and the team clearly had done an excellent job and worked strenously for a very long time, and I can't imagine a more ideal bunch to welcome freshers, but the show felt a week or two from being an excellent show rather than a very good one- I know in my heart that issues with pace, flow, projection, diction, general slickness etc could have been eliminated fairly easily and it's a shame the time ran out to do that. That being said, the rehearsal process was longer than usual so unfortunately it feels like it was the discipline and time-effectiveness of the rehearsal process, rather than the overall amount of time, that contributed to this. This seems to me as an outsider to be as much the fault of the cast as the prod team. Also, the cast was very male-heavy and as the Fresher's show this will shape the society for some time to come. Of course you can only work with the auditionees that you are given, but something to think about. Overally, very good well done to everyone. TG is safe for a while.’
Some who saw it Saturday mentioned that cameras got in the way a bit.
One cast member would have liked to had more time to practise in the space.
‘I appreciate that what the direction team were shooting for was to play down the animalishness but I think this was perhaps the wrong approach, at least for more peripheral characters. This for me was demonstrated most by Ian playing Pigeon. He really shone in what could have been a forgettable role, as noted by so many people in conversation afterwards, and personally I feel had the rest of the cast been encouraged to play their animal and bring those physical traits out more explicitly the show would have been all the better for it. I was often confused as to what animal they were playing and obviously it would be really weird and boring to have actors crawling about on all fours oinking or flapping their wings all the time but personally I felt a better balance could have been struck. The cast seemed to work very well together and there was a real sense of camaraderie, especially amongst the boys, which is really lovely to see. The physical scenes were also really enjoyable, top marks to Flora, but a bit brief. I also don't think that dissipating the role of the Narrator amongst the cast was particularly effective. I'm not sure how the script is written but as the book is written much like an Aesop's fable, it feels like one storyteller breaking the fourth wall, on the audience's side guiding them through would have been more effective. I get it was done to give smaller roles more to do but there you go. On the whole, I was very impressed and appreciated the hard work and thought that had gone in to the show, but I just didn't know what the point Animal Farm was making to an audience in 2016, or what this production in particular wanted to impart on me. It's an allegory criticising a political system both unfamilar to us as an audience and, crucially, not supported by it either (for the most part I think Orwell was trying to make a point to Stalin apologists in the British intellegentsia of his day as much as he was criticising Stalin himself, and I just don't think this thinking is a thing anymore really). As a show (not necessarily this production) it felt stuck in its time, and a bit toothless. The parts about the complicity of organised religion in keeping the masses placated and in their place in the hierarchy were very good, props to Darius, but even that doesn't seem all that relevant to the secular society I recognize. Nevertheless, a very very good Fresher's show of which the society and the team should very be proud’
ANIMAL FARM FEEDBACK DISCUSSION
-Flora: We all tried multiple to get people to come to socials but no one came.
-The meeting Showstoppers thing is strange?
-Ilsa: JV and Charlie ARE Showstoppers
-Paige: so with the production stuff. This is my bad
-NO ITS NOT PAIGE
-Paige: some things went wrong. Things that couldn’t have been prevented were Instaprint fucking up and the issues with sponsorship, wow they really don’t like us anymore. We could’ve ordered stuff earlier, Sponsorship was a big balls in our faces, we should’ve said scrap it and carry on. We had some issues within the team too. It sucks balls.
-Phoebe: did their budget rely on sponsorship?
-Kim: we can’t pass a budget reliant on sponsorship anymore
-Paige: we also could’ve communicated with committee better, and committee could’ve had more present. Freelancers had Gem present all the time, we just weren’t made aware that that presence was readily approachable
-Kim: the prod liaison had more presence because it was an independent and they needed help
-Flora: if we don’t hear much, we assume everything is going well, but it is our fault for not communicating more.
-Paige: I have a ‘fixing reflex’ which is I’LL FIX THIS BEFORE I TELL ANYONE
-Charlie: with regards to the lateness thing, didn’t want it to come across as extremely strict early on and scare people off, and the problems did improve
-Joe Lynch: sorry ya can’t do much about not being in the space.
-Shere: we’ve had more rehearsals
-Kaus: we built the set, it looks sick, you’ll see it when you come see it!