In ‘Animal Farm to Table,’ The Renegade Company forces us to look at our food

Photo by Jared Gruenwald

Photo by Jared Gruenwald

Big Brother or Big Ag?

by Justin Klugh

Dripping with sweat at North Philadelphia urban farm Life Do Grow, Mike Durkin is mapping out staging areas for talking pigs. 

“I call over here!” says one of his actors, racing to a hammock in the shade. 

Unlike actual pigs, who don’t sweat much, the humans portraying characters in The Renegade Company’s adaptation of “Animal Farm” are covered in it.

George Orwell’s classic 1945 novella about animals taking control of the farm on which they live is cited as a critique of communism in the Soviet Union. Its broad themes of revolution and cyclical hierarchy have been referenced by everything from Pink Floyd to X-Men: The Animated Series. Renegade’s original production, “Animal Farm to Table,” will use the book’s message as a commentary on food production and consumption. 

“For me, the inspiration is: What is our food utopia?” explains Durkin, artistic director for the project. “What are the ideals of food? And how do we make it better?”

Durkin will employ Renegade’s abstract techniques to involve the audience as much as possible, calling the work “One part performance, one part town -hall style discussion, one part meal.” The idea is to get viewers to think, not sway them in a particular direction. 

“You could eat meat, you could not eat meat—we’re not here to make any judgements. It’s more an understanding of people’s relationships to food,” he says. “It’s about being aware of the food choices that we make and that each person has their own reason why they do so, and it’s their right to have those reasons.”

Audiences will be led about the grounds by characters from the book such as Napoleon, Snowball and Molly, each presenting a radically different view on the topic of food. Eventually, the audience will be tasked
with gathering ingredients for a chef to prepare a meal.

“We’ve made a lot of these choices because of habit, and I think that sort of leads us in how we make our meals,” Durkin says. “I think that’s something that we understand, and we should continue doing, or we should find ways to adjust it.”

Animal Farm to Table
The Renegade Company

When: 
Sept 8-10 • 6 p.m.
Sept 11 • 3 p.m.
Sept 12 • 6 p.m.
Sept 15-17 • 6 p.m.
Sept 18 • 3 p.m.

Where: 
The Urban Creators Farm
11th and Dauphin streets
Philadelphia, Pa., 19133

Price:
$20