Even for those who will never read the book, it is a maxim that is instantly recognisable for its satirical wisdom.
"All animals are equal" wrote a young journalist named George Orwell while stationed in Paris during the Second World War, "but some animals are more equal than others".
It might seem obvious to say that this message resonates now as much as it did when Orwell had it published in 1945. Yet there is something about our current station as citizens of a world suddenly shut down and ravaged by a pandemic that has made Orwell and his ideas assume a whole new relevance in 2021.
If the last year has taught us anything, it's that despite us all being faced with the same threat, some of us are still, nonetheless, more equal than others.Darcy Brown
Somewhere between this renewed popularity for the author and our refreshed, post-lockdown enthusiasm for live performance comes Animal Farm, an acclaimed theatre production adapted from the famous Orwell novel of the same name.
Originally scheduled to be performed at the Civic Theatre in September last year, the show has been produced by Brisbane theatre company Shake Stir and will be performed twice at the Civic on Wednesday, May 12.
The show will be the first appearance for Shake & Stir of Darcy Brown, an accomplished stage and screen performer whose role as a pig named Squealer is, like the politics that manoeuvre around him, as pivotal to the present day as ever.
Those familiar with the story might recognise Brown's character in any number of contemporary figures, those for whom fear of the other is their political invention rather than our personal reality.
This obvious but unlikely parallel between a farm animal from a 76-year-old parable and those that lead us now is one that the actor has come to know intimately.
"Wars and global conflicts are spilling out and playing out every day," Brown says.
"Reading Orwell for the past year in preparation for this show has been a bizarre and terrifying experience. But it's also been comforting because you realise that as human beings we haven't really budged that much."
In the midst of what is increasingly appearing to be such a devastating phase of the pandemic, the play and the infamous slogans from the novel that it reprises have also become loaded with a deeper meaning.
"If the last year has taught us anything, it's that despite us all being faced with the same threat, some of us are still, nonetheless, more equal than others," he says.
"That phrase we have heard again and again, that 'we're all in this together' makes me wonder if that's actually true.
"Someone said to me recently that we're all on the same ocean but we're on very different boats. Some of us are far more protected in this than others. In a way, that has meant that we have seen the best of people. But it's also meant that we have seen the worst."
In another way, the conflicts we might have with each other, particularly under pressure and through misfortune, is often a manifestation of the conflict we have with ourselves. It is a struggle brought vividly to life in Animal Farm, which upon its publication served as a scathing critique of Stalinism and the brutalities it inflicted upon a devoted but struggling populace.
The Squealer, in both the novel and the play, is the right-hand man for the bigger pig Napoleon, a figure widely associated with the socialist dictator Joseph Stalin. Napoleon embodies the inner conflict Orwell felt personified Stalin himself: the benign, fatherly protector versus the ruthless authoritarian.
While the disempowered animals of the farm slavishly unite, their dear leader - thanks largely to his Squealer - can only fatten with wealth and power. Were it not for the triumph of his "worser" natures, of his own interests over those of his followers, he might have kept his promises. Napoleon might have made the farm great again.
But to leave aside the more philosophical aspects of this production, audiences and critics have often been most impressed by the physical inventiveness of Animal Farm. Depicting moving and speaking animals by humans is never easy on an actor, yet it's been a challenge relished by Brown and one that's served as a playful counterpoint to the rigors of the show.
"I've been very fortunate to get to tour with this show," he says.
"I mean, we get paid to roll around in the mud and make animal noises. And when you get to the end of the day and you look at all your phantom bruises and scratches you think: 'I know how to do this. I'm home'."
Animal Farm by George Orwell. Civic Theatre. Wednesday, May 12, 11am and 7pm.
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