‘Animal Farm’ reimagined as an Orwellian circus

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The circus and communist Russia never had much in common, but House of Yes is looking to change all that.

Starting on Oct. 1, the Bushwick art space will present “Circus of Circus,” a burlesque-style adaptation of George Orwell’s 1946 classic literary satire of the Russian Revolution, “Animal Farm.”

Instead of Orwell’s radicalized farm-working beasts, “Circus of Circus” will feature performers who rebel against their ringmaster. But the actors in the show aren’t just pretending to be circus folk — they’ll showcase their actual trapeze, fire-breathing, contortion skills.

“The show is very tongue and cheek,” said Kae Burke, who co-runs the House of Yes art space and wrote “Circus of Circus.” “And all the characters are directly based on the characters from ‘Animal Farm.’ ”

That means there’ll be a version of Napoleon, the corrupt pig who is depicted in this adaptation as a clown. Boxer, the brawny workhorse, is a muscular acrobat.

Orwell wrote “Animal Farm” to express his disillusionment with Soviet communism under Stalin. Burke’s work, on the other hand, wasn’t the least bit politically motivated. She was just inspired to find that so many characters in the novella reminded her of her friends.

“I’ve been writing this show in my head for more than three years,” said Burke, who also is a circus performer. “The book just had so many characters to explore.”

“Circus of Circus” at House of Yes (342 Maujer St. between Morgan Avenue and Waterbury Street in Bushwick, no phone), Oct. 1-2, 7-9, 14-16. Tickets $20, $30 for VIP. For info, visit

Updated 5:20 pm, July 9, 2018
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