Adapting an Iconic Piece of Literature: 'Animal Farm' at the Milwaukee Rep

Jan 10, 2018

George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a book many of us studied in school. You probably learned that the play is a thinly veiled allegory, whose political animals and their actions closely resembled what led to the Russian Revolution and the beginnings of the totalitarian Soviet state.

A stage version now open at the Milwaukee Rep illustrates the timeless power of Orwell’s story. This particular adaptation has been performed around the world, and it’s the work of British writer Ian Wooldridge.

He explains the practical constraints in his life when he took to adapting Orwell’s work: "I was working with a small-scale touring theatre company, which was working mainly in high schools. I had the limitation of six actors... in the timetable of a high school day with very little money for set or costumes, so we had to keep it simple."

"It was kind of an imaginative exercise in adapting it, in that you have to create scenes that aren't necessarily in the book but that are true to the book," Wooldridge continues. 

He notes that the book's message endures. "It serves as a warning to society, any society at any stage in history, that you have to watch your leadership very carefully because if you don't, then it's going to damage you in some way."

This adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm is now on stage at the Milwaukee Rep through February 11, 2018.

Milwaukee Repertory Theater presents Animal Farm in the Quadracci Powerhouse from January 9 through February 11, 2018. Left to Right: Stephanie Weeks, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Tiffany Stewart, Deborah Staples and Brendan Titley.
Credit Sara Risley