Ambitious stage project sees animals come to life on stage

There is no truer saying than actors must suffer for their art.

And an ambitious play, which is being staged as part of the Cromer and Sheringham Arts Festival, (COAST) proves just that as the cast are set to be transformed before the eyes of the audience into a range of farm yard animals.

The production of the George Orwell political satire, Animal Farm, is being staged by Cromer and Sheringham Operatic and Dramatic Society at Sheringham Little Theatre, and will run from October 20 -23.

Martin Rodwell from the society is making his directorial debut with the play.

He admits he was not too enamoured with Animal Farm, having been put off when studying it at school, but a chance find at a car boot sale changed his mind.

He discovered a copy of the play adapted for the stage by Peter Hall and was so captivated after reading it there and then, he decided to take the book to the society with an ambitious idea for a new production.

Mr Rodwell, 43, who lives in Cromer and works as a painter and decorator, said: 'There was the problem we faced of how are we going to transform people into these animals? We could have gone down the panto route, but that is not what we wanted.'

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Instead actors playing the pigs will be fitted with prosthetic noses, which will made to blend in with their stage make-up, and those playing the chickens, cows and horses have special hair pieces representing long manes or horns.

The play has proved an momentous project, not only in dressing actors for their parts, but also with the sheer number of the cast, which includes 27 people aged from nine-years-old right up to 75, and is one of the biggest casts the society has ever had.

Rehearsals started in June and funding has been given from North Norfolk District Council to help towards the costs of putting on the production.

The action is set in a farm barn building, which is the main stage set. Other places, including a pub and windmill are all suggested.

Narrating the play is 16-year-old Alex Salzedo and taking the lead role of the pig Napoleon, is Paul Markham.

Mr Rodwell, who describes the play as 'a feast for the stage' said: 'We have new people in the play who have never acted before and who are loving and enjoying being part of the production. I am proud of what the cast have been achieving in rehearsals.

'It is very demanding on the cast, they have to remain as animals all the way through, even those who have non-speaking parts.'

Mr Rodwell's time with the society dates back to 1981, when he was just 14-years-old and took on the role of the artful dodger in Oliver.

He left after winning a choral scholarship to the Norwich Cathedral Choir, and went on to perform at various venues, including the Guildhall in London.

He rejoined the society about five-years-ago and since then has trodden the boards a number of times, and has undergone physical transform himself, including losing two-and-a-half stone to play Stanley Kowalsky in A Streetcar Named Desire, and having his head shaved to play Daddy Warbucks in a 2007 production of Annie at Cromer Pier.

The production runs at Sheringham Little Theatre from October 20-23 at 7.30pm with a matinee performance at 2.30pm on October 23.

Tickets are �8 for Wednesday and Thursday evening and the Saturday matinee and �9 on Friday and Saturday evening.

To book contact 01263 822347.

The production is just part of a wider arts festival running at venues from Salthouse to Overstrand from October 23-31, and also including music, drama, literature, art and craft.

The full programme of more than 60 events is available at locations across North Norfolk as well as at